State lawmakers passed a comprehensive package of bills last year to protect domestic violence survivors, with measures strengthening protective orders, increasing penalties and restricting offenders from pos- sessing firearms in certain circumstances (the NRA backed the legislation after some compromises were made). But the political battle over domestic violence isn't over.
State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, fought for anti-discrimination protections for domestic violence survivors who faced eviction when "disruptions" at their homes broke the terms of their leases. Broome's measure failed, but she has returned with a similar measure this year. Senate Bill 174 aims to prevent lessors from discriminating against potential lessees who have been victims of abuse.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 50 percent of homeless women and children have fled domestic violence situations. In February, members of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence told state senators that women in shelters often are refused rental housing if landlords discover they are domestic violence victims or are living in a shelter.
That problem is worse in parts of the state that don't have shelters for women. While the New Orleans area has several domestic violence shelters, there are none between Baton Rouge and Monroe, nor any between Lafayette and Ruston. According to the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, leases that include a "zero tolerance" clause for domestic violence often provide grounds for eviction, even if the offender doesn't live on the premises.
Broome's proposed law joins a 2015 domestic violence legislative package that also includes measures from state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans. Moreno's bills will address stalking laws, protective orders and funding for a statewide fund to pay for rape victims' emergency room visits.