A Boston National Guardsman is suing a pacifist landlord for allegedly denying him the right to rent an apartment on the basis of his military status, the Boston Herald reports.
Sgt. Joel Morgan (pictured below) told the newspaper that his experience has been "like a spit in the face."
"For what we have gone through overseas, to come home to our country and have people ... discriminate against us.... It made me extremely insecure about being a soldier."
Morgan, who served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, and in Afghanistan in 2011, claims that Janice Roberts advised him to seek an apartment elsewhere, allegedly saying that his tenancy would not be "comfortable for us without a doubt."
"We are very adamant about our beliefs," Roberts told him in a voicemail that was played for the Herald. The 63-year-old landlord wrote in a letter to Morgan's lawyer that she belongs to a civil-rights group, Garden of Enlightenment, and had advocated for an end to the Iraq War.
The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, reportedly alleges that Robert's conduct violated a Massachusetts state law that makes it illegal for refusing to rent to veterans based on their military status.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the real estate market on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or familial status.
But the federal law doesn't appear to cover veterans or service members. The Massachusetts Fair Housing statute, however, provides Morgan legal recourse by explicitly offering protection to veterans along with others already covered by the Fair Housing Act.
In her letter to Morgan's lawyer, Roberts said Morgan never completed a rental form and questioned his ability to pay rent and his choice of potential roommates.
Morgan said that he didn't complete a rental form because of her discouraging voicemail.
Whether he wins or loses, Morgan joins the ranks of military service members who have gotten into very public disputes over housing recently.
Last year, for example, one Oregon veteran faced eviction after refusing a request from management at his apartment complex to remove an American flag that was hanging outside his home.
And in another case, a Korean war veteran nearly lost his home to foreclosure for failing to pay $340 in homeowner association fees.
The group that files the most complaints of discrimination in the real estate market, however, is Americans with disabilities. Those with disabilities accounted for 44 percent of all discrimination complaints that National Fair Housing Alliance members investigated in 2011, a recent report says. That's more than double the number of complaints filed in relation to race.
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