Hard to believe this made it into law…
The state of Oregon won’t keep fighting to enforce a first-in-the-nation ban on real estate “love letters” and will pay a Bend real estate group more than $60,000, according to a draft settlement filed in a federal court in Portland.
Chief U.S. District Judge Marco Hernández in March temporarily blocked the enforcement of Oregon’s 2021 ban on Realtors passing messages from buyers to sellers, reasoning that it likely interfered with free speech rights. Hernández still needs to sign off on a draft agreement from attorneys for the state and Bend-based Total Real Estate Group that would permanently end enforcement of the 2021 law.
As part of the draft agreement filed with the court Friday, state attorneys acknowledge that the 2021 law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Steve Strode, the state real estate commissioner, must post a notice online for a year noting that the commission will not enforce the 2021 law.
The state also agreed to pay Total Real Estate about $62,000 in attorney fees and court costs.
You’d think that would close the book, but you’d be wrong:
Rep. Mark Meek, a Gladstone Democrat and Realtor who sponsored the now-unenforceable law, told the Capital Chronicle he was disappointed in the ruling and intends to try again to address what he sees as an underlying issue with real estate love letters perpetuating housing discrimination. Meek and other skeptics of the practice believe the use of these letters results in sellers choosing buyers who share their race, religion or family makeup.
Meek, who is now running for the state Senate, said he hopes to find language that balances free speech rights with preventing violations of federal and state laws that prohibit discriminating against home buyers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, familial status or source of income.
“We’re gonna go back to the drawing board and make sure we get it all correct,” he said. “Definitely the underlying purpose there is necessary, and so we just have to figure out how to navigate that.”
People have a right to say and think what they want and the government needs to protect that not inhibit it. If a potential buyers sends a letter that says, “We’re a white Christian family with two kids” that is their prerogative to identify themselves. A buyer shouldn’t sell (or not sell) on that basis, but good luck stopping them or proving that such discrimination was the deciding factor. You also won’t stop illegal discrimination with this approach even if it were constitutional. You have to win hearts and minds not hit people with a stick.
That said, I can only hope that the Meeks fails in his run for the state Senate. I know nothing else about him, but anyone so ignorant of the Constitution has no business making laws.