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Franken reintroduces bill for victims of sexual, domestic assault

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., helped reintroduce legislation Wednesday that would help address ongoing barriers to safe housing for victims of domestic and sexual violence and their children.

The Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2017, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., builds on existing legal protections in the Violence Against Women Act, which Sen. Franken championed in 2013, and the Fair Housing Act by establishing a nationwide standard that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault cannot be evicted or denied access to housing solely for being victims of those crimes, a news release from Franken's office said.

"It's unconscionable to think that someone could be evicted from their home—or outright denied housing—because they've experienced domestic violence or sexual assault," Franken said in a news release. "I've been fighting for a long time to change that because I believe we should be doing everything in our power to support survivors of these terrible crimes. Our bill would build on provisions in existing law that I championed to more broadly protect survivors, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed into law."

Franken has long fought to increase housing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2013, Franken authored a provision in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that made it unlawful to evict someone from federally-supported housing‎ because they were a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. And in 2016, Franken successfully urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to release federal guidance to help combat unfair and discriminatory nuisance ordinances that endanger survivors of domestic violence and other crime victims, the release stated.

Franken and Shaheen's legislation, introduced Thursday, would build on the protections included in VAWA and amend the Fair Housing Act to ensure that legal protections for domestic violence and sexual assault victims apply broadly across the housing market. Thirty-two domestic violence, fair housing, and legal service organizations have previously endorsed the effort including the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, American Civil Liberties Union, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.