Legislators propose ‘Brandon’s Law’, to target ‘anti-Christian bigotry’

Lawmakers draft bill after Missoula pastor given ethics violation by Realtors group

By: - July 1, 2022 4:05 pm

Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, stands with Pastor Brandon Huber after the court hearing. (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Months after an ethics complaint was filed against realtor and Pastor Brandon Huber for alleged anti-LGBTQ hate speech, legislators drafted a bill named in his honor to “combat anti-Christian bigotry in the real estate industry,” a press release from Huber’s attorney read Thursday.

The bill, called “Brandon’s Law” submitted by Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, to the Montana Legislative Services Division on Tuesday, has a two goals as outlined in the release:

“Prohibit a real estate organization from forcing realtors to join the organization and fund (the National Association of Realtor’s) anti-Christian agenda in order to have access to the MLS (multiple listing service, an online database that sorts available real estate properties”;

“Impose civil liability as well as professional sanctions (including real-estate license suspensions by the state’s Board of Realty Regulation) for discriminating against a fellow realtor based upon the realtor’s constitutionally protected speech or free exercise of religion.”

Huber’s attorney, Matthew Monforton, said that the “anti-Christian bigotry” refers to the hate speech prohibition that was added to the National Association of Realtors ethics code in November 2020.

A Clinton resident filed an ethics complaint with the NAR, the Daily Montanan reported in November of 2021, in reaction to Huber ending the church’s partnership with the Missoula Food Bank after a LGBTQ “Pride” insert, a coloring page, had been included in the free lunches they partnered to hand out.

The Missoula Organization of Realtors also accused Huber of “hate speech” for participating in a rally advertised with a flier that read, in part, “Expose the LGBTQ Agenda that Controls our Lives and Kills our Liberty.”

The part-time realtor and lead pastor of the Clinton Community Church, Huber, went before the Missoula County District Court last fall to claim that the Missoula Organization of Realtors violated the Montana Constitution by discriminating against him in the exercise of his religious ideas.

As for the proposed legislation, attorney James Bowditch said Thursday that the Missoula Organization of Realtors had “not yet had a chance to review the proposed legislation or Mr. Monforton’s press release and therefore has no comment at this time.”

Retaining access to the listing service was highlighted as a reason for the proposed legislation. According to the National Association of Realtors, the MLS can also provide listing information to “third-party aggregators such as realtor.com and others through syndication or other similar type agreements, unless the broker withholds consent.”

Monforton said without the MLS, it’s difficult for real estate agents to help customers without full information and without relying on a third-party.

“It’s still of crucial importance for realtors to be able to have access to the MLS in order to give their clients the best service,” Monforton said.

Monforton, a former lawmaker, said there’s an increasing appetite to push back on organizations like the National Association of Realtors.

“(A number of lawmakers) have made clear that they’re opposed to the kind of anti Christian bigotry that we’re seeing more and more of in our society these days,” Monforton said. “We are hopeful that they’re going to be able to get Brandon’s law passed by the legislature.”

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.