In response to a report in the Boston Herald of a U.S. veteran who was told not to even bother applying to rent an apartment because of his participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), introduced a bill that would, for the first time, make housing discrimination based on military service illegal nationwide.
Senator Brown's Ending Housing Discrimination Against Servicemembers and Veterans Act of 2012 (S. 3283), would extend the anti-discrimination protections provided by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to veterans and active duty military service members. Currently, the Fair Housing Act only prohibits discrimination in advertisements, offers, contract conditions, and agreements for housing on the account of race, color, religion, sex, family status, or national origin.
"Our servicemembers and veterans should be welcomed home, not discriminated against because of their brave service," said Sen. Brown in a press release. "Our heroes should never have to worry about being barred from renting or owning a home because they answered the call and made sacrifices for our country."
While what Sen. Brown calls an "uneven patchwork of state laws" offer some protections, no overreaching federal housing discrimination law provides nationwide protection to servicemembers, veterans or retirees. "For servicemembers who are reassigned from state to state (or territory), they face a changing level of legal protection," Brown noted.
Sen. Brown offered his bill in reaction to the Boston Herald story of 29-year-old Sgt. Joel Morgan, a National Guardsman with service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, who was told by a potential landlady that her "peace activism" beliefs prevented her from renting Sgt. Morgan an apartment.
Sen. Brown's bill would empower veterans, active duty and retired servicemembers who are discriminated against in any aspect of the housing and real estate market to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing office and the U.S. Department of Justice's Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.