The right of all individuals in the state to equal housing opportunities is guaranteed in state law. Yet while it applies to individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity, disability and age, one segment of society is not specifically protected.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), and approved today by the Rhode Island Senate, would guarantee the same civil right in regard to housing to honorably discharged veterans and members of the Armed Forces.
“After serving, defending our nation, defending our freedoms, service people sometimes come home to learn their desire to live where they choose is denied solely because of their military background. That is not right, that is not fair and it needs to be outlawed,” said Senator Felag, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs.
“We pledge allegiance, and talk about liberty and justice for all, but we don’t always mean all. We should be proud of and thankful for our nation’s military men and women. We should not discriminate against them in any way, simply because they wore a uniform in the service of our country,” said Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), who has introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives.
The Felag bill, 2015-S 0241A, would add military status discrimination as an unlawful housing practice protecting veterans who have an honorable discharge or an honorable or general administration discharge or are members of the Armed Forces of the U.S. and Rhode Island National Guard. The bill would ensure that, just as with marital status, military status cannot be used as a reason to prevent an individual from renting or buying a residence. The bill would also prohibit questions about one’s military status from being asked of individuals seeking to rent an apartment or purchase or lease a home.
It would also prohibit discrimination against honorably discharged veterans or members of the military in regard to credit cards, loans and brokerage services.
Co-sponsors of the Felag bill include Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick).
The Malik House bill, 2015-H 5593, is currently before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.