It’s what happens between sessions at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo that makes the experience of NAR’s biggest annual event for many attendees. New friendships budding, business connections made, memories added to the bank. And one practitioner at the San Francisco convention this year logged one of the biggest memories of all: Getting married — legally, finally — to his spouse of nine years.
Brian Copeland, GRI, ABR, CRS, an agent at Village Real Estate Services in Nashville, Tenn., exchanged vows with Greg Bullard, a pastor, at San Francisco’s Fay Park near Lombard Street on Tuesday. And the REALTOR® community was there to rally around the couple and their 2-year-old son, Micah Copeland, to show their love and support.
“We knew we wanted to get everything legally done by the end of 2013, and most states [near Tennessee] that offer marriage equality were hours away and required a waiting period between license and ceremony,” Copeland says. “We would be in San Francisco for NAR and knew that many of our REALTOR® friends would be here at the same time. It simply made too much sense. That’s why we did it.”
Present at the ceremony were many of the couple’s friends from home, past NAR presidents, many state and local association executives, countless NAR staff members, and REALTOR® friends from 20 states and two countries.
“The support [for our marriage] in the REALTOR® organization reflects exactly how I expect REALTORS® to treat every consumer — with dignity, respect and kindness, regardless of background,” Copeland says.
He says he posted ceremony photos to Facebook Tuesday night, and before the night was done, “over 4,000 likes, comments, and posts had poured in.” In the last few days, as he has attended the convention, “one out of every three people — no joke — I pass at NAR says, ‘Congratulations, we’re so happy for you,’” Copeland says. “It has shown us the wide welcome and deep love in the REALTOR® family.”
Copeland says his marriage to Bullard strengthens his family, particularly because of federal protections that will now apply to little Micah. The couple will now have joint-parenting rights, and they can cover Micah in a family health insurance plan. Micah is also guaranteed child support.
Though Copeland and Bullard now have federal recognition of their union, it won’t be recognized by the state that they are returning home to. Still, Copeland says that even if Tennessee did legalize same-sex marriage, it wouldn’t solve all of their problems.
“When people ask us if we have had a hard time in Tennessee due to the lack of marriage equality, we just do not see it that way,” he says. “We often forget that legal status does not equal no discrimination, nor does it mean that life is easier.”
For now, he’s just counting his blessings.
“My company, Village Real Estate, is the beacon of diversity and inclusiveness in the real estate space. While we use the term ‘inclusive’ often to describe ourselves, many companies do not live the value,” Copeland says. “Thanks to my amazing company, I’ve never been treated as second-class or not worthy of the same regard as my straight, married counterparts. So, ultimately, nothing really changes in my business. In my practice, my speaking, and my leadership, I’ve always been 100 percent honest, open, and out. We all want someone we can trust. My life is an open book.”