A lesbian couple sued a faith-based retirement home from St.
Louis after they rejected their application and refused to take them in solely because of the same-sex couple’s sexual orientation.
According to Mary Walsh and Bev Nance, who have been together for over 40 years, problems with purchasing a home in Sunset Hills’ Friendship Village began after the senior living facility officials asked the couple about the nature of their relationship.
According to Walsh and Nance’s attorneys, the non-profit institution engaged in unlawful discrimination by rejecting their application due to “Biblical values” that clearly point out that a “marriage is between a man and a woman.”
“Mary Walsh and Beverly Nance took Friendship Village to federal court for sex discrimination in July, after the senior-living facility denied the same-sex couple’s housing application,” SLPR reported following the lawsuit.
“Friendship Village cited its ‘Cohabitation Policy’ as the reason for the rejection. The policy defines marriage as between one man and one woman, as ‘marriage is understood in the Bible.’”
The accusers, who were backed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and ACLU of Missouri, argued that they were discriminated by the Friendship Village on the basis of their sex.
“Friendship Village’s denial of housing to Mary and Bev because they are two women, and not a man and a woman, is discrimination ‘because of sex’ in the most literal sense,” their representative, Arlene Zarembka, said.
According to the Fair Housing Act, discrimination against homebuyers or renters due to their “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin” is prohibited.
However, as Judge Jean Hamilton pointed out, discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is not illegal according to the Missouri Human Rights Act as well as the Fair Housing Act.
“The Court finds the claims boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual orientation rather than sex alone,” the judge wrote in a memorandum.
Following the federal lawsuit that the couple has lost, Mary Walsh spoke out and said:
“We are disappointed by the court’s decision. Bev and I are considering our next steps and will discuss this with our attorneys.
“We’ve been together for nearly 40 years and have spent our lives in St. Louis. We want to grow older here by each other’s side. We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.”
Speaking of their denied application, Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri Legal Director, added: “Mary and Bev were financially and otherwise qualified for residency in the Friendship Village community. Their exclusion from this community is the result of discrimination alone.”
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