Congressman who said it’s fine to refuse to sell houses to gay people slammed as ‘backward’

A Republican congressman who said that it was fine to refuse to sell houses to LGBT people has been slammed by LGBT groups and one of the upcoming opponents for his congressional seat.

Dana Rohrabacher, a 15-term Californian congressman, told a group of realtors that homeowners should be able to reject anyone they want.

On Thursday, the lawmaker told an Orange County Association of Realtors delegation: “Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone (if) they don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: House Science, Space and Technology Committee member Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) questions witnesses from NASA, the Department of Defense and the White House during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee asked government and military experts about efforts to track and mitigate asteroids, meteors and other "near-Earth objects." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

This was swiftly criticised by the National Association of Realtors, LGBT rights groups and one of the Democrats contesting his Congressional seat in this November’s election.

Despite his 15 terms in office, Rohrabacher’s seat is rated as a toss-up ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

Rohrabacher’s seat is being challenged by 15 people, including eight Democrat candidates.

One of these opponents, Harley Rouda, condemned the Republican’s comments on Friday, saying that his thinking was “backward.”

(Harley Rouda for Congress)

Speaking to CBSLA, Rouda said: “What Dana Rohrabacher fails to understand is discrimination is discrimination.

“It shows how backward his thinking is.”

Rohrabacher’s remarks have also been criticised by LGBT groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading LGBT advocacy groups worldwide.

David Stacy, the Government Affairs Director of the Human Rights Campaign, called Rohrabacher’s statement “unconscionable.”

In a statement on Friday, Stacy said: “It is unconscionable that in 2018 that Dana Rohrabacher believes LGBTQ people do not deserve legal protections from housing discrimination.

“He could not be more out of touch with everyday Americans and his own constituents.

“More than 70 percent of voters believe that every American should be able to buy or rent a home regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Stacy then called on outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan to lead Republicans in rejecting Rohrabacher’s statement.

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

He said: “Speaker Ryan, who has supported employment non-discrimination protections in the past, should make clear that House Republicans reject Rohrabacher’s comments and schedule a hearing on LGBTQ housing discrimination.

“We thank the National Association of Realtors for withdrawing their endorsement of Rohrabacher and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals for their work to ensure that he is held accountable for his discriminatory comments.”

The National Association of Realtors withdrew its recommendation that members donate to his upcoming campaign after the comments.

Related: Democrats call on the White House to stop Trump’s plan to allow doctors to refuse treatment to trans people

In a statement, the group of 1.3 million members said: “It was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President’s Circle.”

It explained that Rohrabacher had violated the association’s moral code, which does not allow discrimination because of people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Rohrabacher confirmed the remarks when questioned by the press.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 01: (L to R) Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) await the arrival of Thae Yong-ho, former chief of mission at the North Korean embassy in the United Kingdom, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, November 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Yong-ho defected from North Korea in 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(Drew Angerer/Getty)

Speaking to the Orange County Register, he confirmed he held the beliefs, saying that property owners should be able to “choose who they do business with.”

He then insisted that LGBT people shouldn’t have as many rights as other minorities, saying: “We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line.

“A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

Rohrabacher worked as a speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for almost his entire presidency.

He took his place in the House of Representatives in January 1989, just before Reagan left office – and has been there ever since.