An anti-LGBT letter describing two Florida agents as “sick” and “disgusting” has sparked widespread condemnation within the real estate industry, with both Keller Williams and other organizations criticizing the “extremely offensive” comments.
Agents Jimmy Hendrickson and Shawn Layton from the Orlando area received the letter Tuesday. The duo asked, “Why in God’s name are you requesting a public demonstration of your homosexuality?”
“It’s so wrong on so many levels,” the letter continued. “How can you possibly expect a ‘normal’ person to respect your lifestyle? I know what you do to each other and it’s sick. “
In the letter, the agents were repeatedly labeled “disgusting” and said their parents should be ashamed. It’s signed “Gagging, Barbara”. The author has not given a surname or a return address.
In a phone call on Thursday afternoon, Layton Inman said he and Hendrickson were down when they received the letter.
“I would say that feeling hurt doesn’t even describe the emotions we feel,” he said. “We are fortunate to live in a city that is very open, very inclusive and very acceptable. When we got such a letter, we were just blown away. We were very hurt by the reality check that it can absolutely happen to you. “
One day after the letter landed in the agents’ inbox, prominent industry associations spoke out against it.
In a memo on Thursday, Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ + Real Estate Alliance, described the comments as “extremely offensive” and said it was another example of the discrimination the LGBT community continues to face.
“We strongly condemn the hatred and want Shawn and Jimmy to know that the entire LGBTQ + Real Estate Alliance is in unity with them,” Weyandt added in the memo.
Hendrickson and Layton run a team called Central Florida Home Boys, which is part of a Keller Williams franchise. In response to the letter, a Keller Williams spokesman emailed Inman that the company “is deeply saddened that members of our Keller Williams family have been singled out in a humiliating letter for their sexual orientation.”
“As a brand, we remain committed to supporting our many communities and promoting inclusion,” the email added.
A spokesman for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said in an email to Inman that the organization was “sad to hear about the letter.”
“Nobody in America should be exposed to such attacks from another person,” added the spokesman. “As part of our ongoing commitment to combating discrimination in the real estate industry, NAR has been vocal in advocating HR 5, which would provide fair shelter for LGBTQ community members, and we will continue to advocate hatred against any group of people . “
The response from the Hendrickson and Layton social circle was also supportive. After Hendrickson posted the letter on his Facebook page on Tuesday, more than 600 comments were generated, all of which appear to show support for the agents.
“That annoys me to a level that goes beyond anything I can imagine!” one person wrote. “I know you will get through this and you will have a lot of people on your side.”
“What an idiot!” said another, referring to the letter writer. “You guys are great! Your contributions brighten my day. If I ever have to buy a home in central Florida, you guys are the real estate agents I speak to!”
The response has been encouraging for Hendrickson and Layton, who have made their LGBT identities an important part of their professional identities.
“I’m sure Barbara never wanted so much love and positivity to come out of a little piece of paper,” Layton said. “We’re just very humble that we got the commitment and response we got from everyone.”
He added that he and Hendrickson – who are also chapter leaders in the LGBTQ + Real Estate Alliance – are happy to be spotlighted as advocates for equality. And he said the incident underscored the need for further progress.
“Progress doesn’t happen,” concluded Layton, “without passionate people behind it.”
Email Jim Dalrymple II