Prejudice is not a Realtor(tm) value

Can you imagine if a Loudoun Realtor were to argue that they were helping home buyers make an “informed decision” regarding their home purchase by mouthing derogatory slurs about African-Americans and Jews, and complaining that the local government has required desegregation? Because this is the equivalent of that. Professional Realtors have a code of ethics, in part, due to awareness of how such bigotry has been practiced in the past.

Vivianne Rutkowski is a Realtor with Keller Williams on Catoctin Circle in Leesburg. I have contact information for her Broker and Regional Director, but I don’t want to publish it here. Contact me offline if you wish to communicate with them regarding this matter. Miss Rutkowski is bound by the code of ethics adopted by the National Association of Realtors.

I stumbled by accident across this wildly inappropriate, offensive post (it’s captured as it appeared Wednesday, January 25 at approximately 12:45 am) on her professional real estate business blog. I left a comment indicating that I would make sure no one I know would ever use her as an agent, and telling her why. Here are some screenshots of what she thought was appropriate content for a blog on which she presents herself to the public as a Realtor:

Can you believe the slurs and misgendering of trans people? It could have come right out of a Delgaudio hate mail. It’s also worth noting that this Realtor is a member of the Dulles Area Association of Realtors, a local organization flagged here as an unusual political outlier among associations. Can you even imagine a professional Realtor using such defamatory language about any other minority group and getting away with it? Trans people are a valuable part of this community, Miss Rutkowski. I suggest you get used to it.

Did she actually just express the assumption, as if it’s self-evident, that equal employment opportunity for LGBT people is incompatible with raising children? I guess the numerous LGBT families who moved here to raise children – not to mention the LGBT children of her straight clients – didn’t occur to her. And here’s one from her very long and ALL CAPS filled response to me, in which she tries to justify her expression of blatant prejudice:

First of all, if her blog was in fact “strictly about REAL ESTATE,” it obviously wouldn’t include a post with the title “Loudoun County in Virginia going Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender” consisting of nothing but ignorant slurs about gay, lesbian and transgender community members.

And can you imagine if a Loudoun Realtor were to argue in 2010 that they were helping home buyers make an “INFORMED decision” regarding their home purchase by mouthing derogatory slurs about African-Americans and Jews, and complaining that the local government has required desegregation? Because this is the equivalent of that. Professional Realtors have a code of ethics, in part, due to awareness of how such bigotry has been practiced in the past.

I would have accepted an apology from this woman on behalf of the community members she insulted before she wrote that.

Go sit in the corner, Miss Rutkowski. You screwed up.

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27 Responses to Prejudice is not a Realtor(tm) value

  1. Jonathan says:

    David,

    I found it interesting that Vivianne posted all of the links from your Facebook page on her reply. What was the purpose of that?

  2. David says:

    Those links being this blog, and the St. James United Church of Christ site. I don’t understand the purpose of that, either. I commented with full disclosure of my identity for a reason, after all.

    Had she not responded in the ignorant and belligerent way that she did I would not have written this post. It’s evident that she is utterly clueless that she did anything wrong. “Lack of professionalism” doesn’t even begin to address the issues here. Rather than leave comments on her post, which will probably just cause her ignorance and victimism to become more entrenched, I suggest contacting her Broker and Regional Director. They are no doubt unaware that one of their Realtors thinks it’s ok to behave this way, and will be more effective in explaining things to her.

  3. liz says:

    I like to make an informed decision when buying a house. The Loudoun policy tells me that Loudoun is welcoming to the parents of some of my best friends growing up, that Loudoun is welcoming to some of my best friends now.

    Welcoming workers to the county who are gay or lesbian or transgender IS a family value.

  4. David says:

    It seems that Ms. Rutkowski does have some understanding of what she did wrong, because she has attempted to silently change the content of her own earlier comments to make them appear less offensive. Of course we have the original as it appeared last night.

    Time will tell if this comment is released from moderation:

    Ms. Rutkowski, you have attempted to alter the content of this post to make it appear somehow less offensive. We have screenshots of the original.

    I find your attitude remarkable. In light of the fact that you have used defamatory slurs against a significant segment of the NoVA community you supposedly serve, you should be asking what it is that you don’t understand that led you to write something so outlandish in the first place, and correcting the negative impression of Keller Williams you have created – not trying to justify and cover up your behavior. I understand from other Realtor friends that you are ethically prohibited from making such defamatory statements about the demographics and residents of a community.

  5. Doug Reimel says:

    Too funny, I just shared her blog article on my Facebook page and urged my 600+ Facebook friends (including many in Loudoun) not to use this woman’s real estate services. I was pointing out the illogic of her assertion that because David was pointing out the anti-GLBT nature of her post he was being “aggressive”, and that she would help David anyway due to “safety” concerns. How absurd and ironic is that? Then, after I posted this on Facebook, she password protected the comments on her blog post!

  6. Doug Reimel says:

    would NOT help David….sorry

  7. David says:

    Now she’s taken the post down entirely. I doubt that she ever released my second comment from moderation, but I had earlier captured her priceless response to a sitting Leesburg Town Council member in which she lectures him on the Constitution. She subsequently sent me a personal email threatening to “notify the police department and the sheriff office out of concern for my SAFETY” if I don’t make other people stop commenting on her blog and sending her email. For the record, I have not sent her a single email, and have more than once recommended that people not bother commenting on her post or emailing her, but rather to share their concerns about the post with her Broker and others at Keller Williams. What I did was to 1) tell her why I would be telling all my friends to never use her as an agent, and then doing so; and 2) write my own post about her post.

    Given the foregoing, I believe we can safely disregard any further commentary from Ms. Rutkowski on constitutional rights.

  8. Brian says:

    David,

    If you think additional letters to the Keller Williams office would be beneficial – especially if you’ve not received a letter back from them – let me know. I can say with great certainty that if I posted something online that was defamatory and had it specifically linked to my employer, I’d either get royally – and I mean ROYALLY – chewed out by my employer, canned, or both. Probably both.

  9. NAGLREP says:

    The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) is currently advocating to see that this behavior is not allowable. See http://agbeat.com/video/naglrep-requests-code-of-ethics-address-gender-identity-issue/

  10. While Vivianne Rutkowski’s opinions about the LGBT community are mind-blowingly ignorant, she does have a point. These policies do have an effect on real estate…

    …a POSITIVE effect!

    The fact that Loudoun County has taken a stand against hatred and prejudice is a GOOD thing.

  11. Tanya says:

    Keller Williams Realty International has a discriminatory policy regarding agent compensation. Legally married same sex couples are not compensated equally to their heterosexual counterparts. Keller Williams offers a “cap” system and “married” real estate spouses pay one cap .. unless you happen to be gay. Even if your marriage is legally recognized in the state in which you reside, gay couples pay double the “royalty cap”.

  12. David says:

    Brian, I have not yet heard back from Keller Williams, although we did get a note from the Dulles Area Association of Realtors. Their CEO thanked us for bringing the matter to their attention and provided information for filing a formal ethics complaint.

    I’m somewhat torn about this. I don’t necessarily want to flood Keller Williams with angry emails (which is why I didn’t publicly post the contact information), and I really don’t know the extent of action that others have taken on their own. It looks like this is being shared extensively, though. If I don’t here from them promptly tomorrow I will reassess. Here is what I sent them late this afternoon:

    Dear Mr. Cockrill and Ms. Williams,

    Yesterday, I accidentally came across an offensive blog post published in 2010 by a Keller Williams Realtor, purporting to “inform” potential home buyers of the fact that our Board of Supervisors had updated the county Human Resources Policy Handbook to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Realtor, Vivianne Rutkowski of the Catoctin Circle office, published this post on her professional real estate business blog that bears the name of your firm. She presented this news, under the headline “Loudoun County in Virginia going Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender,” as something that her clients have a right to know because it would likely cause “families raising children” to look for a home elsewhere, and strongly implied that this fair EEOP would have a deleterious effect on Loudoun real estate. She also used some of the most offensive, defamatory slurs imaginable about our community, in particular misgendering transgender people and implying that they present some sort of threat with regard to public restrooms.

    Here is the link to her post: http://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/loudoun-county-in-virginia-going-gay-lesbian-and-transgender/

    She has already altered the content somewhat to make it appear that she was presenting a more balanced view. I have captured screenshots of the page as it appeared last night.

    What I find even more disturbing than the original post is the fact that Ms. Rutkowski remains unapologetic and combative, even after it was brought to her attention that she deeply offended a significant segment of the NoVA and Loudoun community. Her argument is summed up in this comment left on the post last night (and this is one of the passages she has since silently edited): “Home Buyers can also VOID a contract for any reason using one of the contingencies – including IF they happen to learn that the neighbor is transgender and the home buyer does not approve of such lifestyle. It truly would be a VERY VERY sad day if HOME BUYERS were denied the right to make an INFORMED decision regarding the purchase of their HOME.”

    This argument, as I point out in my own post at Equality Loudoun, might as well be that she is helping home buyers make an “informed decision” regarding their home purchase by repeating derogatory slurs about African-Americans and Jews, and complaining that the local government has required desegregation. My community has reached the end of our patience with being talked to and about in this manner.

    I understand that this matter does not involve a property transaction subject to federal fair housing law, but it certainly must be a violation of professional ethics for this person to discuss other members of the community in which she represents your firm as if we are unwanted additions to the landscape rather than human beings who, yes, also raise families, pay taxes, and buy and sell homes.

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you wish to discuss this further. My mobile is 703.431.0882

    Best Regards,

    David Weintraub
    Co-founder and Editor, Equality Loudoun
    info@equalityloudoun.org
    http://archive.equalityloudoun.org/

  13. Ellen Moyer says:

    I am a Realtor with RE/MAX Allegiance and….this Realtor’s words are completely atrocious. Buyer’s need not and should not be concerned at all with someone’s sexual orientation or anything personal of that nature. Her actually saying this is a concern for people is beyond close minded and is, well, hateful towards humans. It is very clear where she stands with people whom are not straight. I would not be surprised to see a post which says “Loudoun is going Muslim” or “Are the Asians taking over?” She is really gross.

    When I am out showing homes and people ask me “What kind of people live here?” My answer is “people” You would be dissapointed to know how many “good, decent” people ask questions regarding what is the ethnic background or racial make up of the people who live in a neighborhood.

    But to outwardly blog that you should be aware of certain people living in an area is prejudice and hateful. I am confused by something…….she mentions in correspondance that buyers can back out of purchasing a home if they find out transgender people live next door because it does not fit their “lifestyle”????? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    That can’t possibly be correct.

    Let me make this clear…..I am a Realtor who would love to help ANYONE who is NOT crazy or mean to find a home. I don’t care what color you are or what religion you are or what sex you are or were or want to be…..I will show you homes in neighborhoods that have all sorts of wonderful and interesting people living in them. Most Realtors I know are this way.

    ’nuff said

    Ellen Moyer with RE/MAX allegiance

  14. David says:

    I can’t help but speculate that this may be relevant to this case:

    There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

  15. David says:

    Not meaning to be flippant in my last comment. It’s just that throughout this little saga – from her original post, her responses in comments, her clumsy attempt to alter the content of her comments when she realized she was in trouble, to her personal email to me, it’s been clear to me that Ms. R. is a pretty unintelligent person. Not necessarily crazy or mean, although it can easily look that way. She’s a person who has what she probably thinks of as a “common sense” idea of gender and sexuality, and not enough curiosity about the world to question whether there might be more to it than what she already “knows.” Perfect fodder for Delgaudio, in other words. I actually feel sorry for her, because she doesn’t seem to have the cognitive capacity to even understand why what she did was wrong.

  16. Pingback: Anti-gay, anti-trans Realtor terminated from Keller Williams |

  17. David says:

    See update to this situation here.

  18. Pingback: Anti-gay, anti-trans Realtor terminated from Keller Williams – Loudoun Progress

  19. Julian says:

    I’m not a bigoted person, but it appears that what she is doing is expressing the opinion that in a free market, people can live wherever they choose, and that if a person/couple decides that they want to be near or far from a given demographic or in a community with a certain outlook on a given demographic, they will choose where to live based on those factors. That seems more like a fact given that people have free choice, rather than a slander on any group.

    As a disclaimer, not defending any particular ideology or agenda, just an observer following this saga. I accept everyone as they were born.

  20. David says:

    Thanks, Julian. Not only do people have the right to choose where they live, Ms. Rutkowski has the right to express her views. I want to make that very clear – this isn’t about her right to free expression. The First Amendment protects her right to say what she wants on her blog, just as it protects my right to do the same on this one.

    Two things, though. She did it as a representative of Keller Williams Realty, about which they have now made their opinion known by terminating her. That is their right. The reaction of other agents and Realtors to her behavior has been uniform – they find it appalling and say it’s a violation of professional ethics.

    And she did not merely state the obvious fact that people can do research and choose where to shop for a home – everyone agrees with that. She expressed the assumption that the presence of LGBT neighbors who can work for the county without fear of discrimination is incompatible with families raising children. That is, in itself, defamatory – and foolish, since so many of us are families raising children. To make matters worse, in the course of making a false statement about the Human Resources policy she used offensive language to describe members of our community.

    It doesn’t matter whether it was caused by animus or ignorance – I can’t imagine that any professional agency would want to be associated with such remarks.

  21. Elder Berry says:

    David, you’re exactly right. She can run her mouth off (or keyboard her fingers off) with defamatory and discriminatory language all she wants, she just can’t do it and be abiding by the National Association of Realtors pledge, or under the standards evidently expected of Keller Williams real estate agents.

    Julian, someone buying real estate may indeed want to know such “community characteristics” information and they are free to try to find it, but a Realtor ™ has pledged not to provide it, because such information may be considered to be discriminatory. Eh voila.

  22. Julian says:

    True. Kind of like the Don Imus incident(s). I didn’t know that ‘transgendered’ was in the language of the Realtors association code. She certainly could have moved to another jurisdiction if the BOS decision caused her issue. Certainly not smart to post controversial viewpoints on the web. Bet she didn’t see that coming back to bite her.

  23. David says:

    Or she could just chill out and try to get along with folks she doesn’t know the first thing about.

  24. I am not at all surprised to learn that the offending agent was dismissed. Reading her comments on another blog only prove that she is completely obtuse to the error of her ways.

  25. Pingback: Too Conservative - The Strange Tale of Vivianne Rutkowski – REALTOR

  26. Pingback: Vivianne: Sadly, no |

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