A faith-healing psychic in Colorado refused to rent to an LGBT family, allegedly foretelling that their "uniqueness" would disrupt the neighborhood. Her "psychic friend" also advised her to refuse them. Neither saw a lawsuit coming.
In advertorial YouTube videos, self-described psychic-healer Deepika Avanti of Gold Hill, Colorado claims she gets visions. She says that she can see diseases coming from up to eight years away! That gives her the unique opportunity to intervene as some kind of preemptive psycho-spiritual vaccine, presumably for a fee.
Somehow, Avanti did not see the unfair housing discrimination lawsuit coming her way, apparently caused by her own prejudiced intuitions. LGBT advocates with Lambda Legal filed that suit on Thursday with a pro-bono assist from the attorneys at Holland & Hart in Denver. It claims that Avanti violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
Housing discrimination cases are often subtle and difficult to identify, but this lawsuit seems especially solid. Avanti is a .... how should I put this ... a "unique" and expressive lady?
Shortly after meeting her prospective tenants Tonya and Rachel Smith and their two kids, the lawsuit alleges that Avanti sent the young family an email worried that if she rented to them, their "uniqueness" would cause gossip within the neighborhood, disrupt the school, and blow her "low profile." She advised that the family of four move to a "larger town."
Avanti told the Boulder Daily Camera that turning the family away "had nothing to do with their sexuality." She claims they "would have been too noisy" for her. According to the lawsuit, Avanti has professed her innocence by saying she "has a transvestite friend herself."
Tonya and Rachel told their story and explained their principles and concerns in a compelling web interview with the Daily Camera. Here it is:
"Worrying about what the neighbors will say is no excuse for discrimination,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said of the case via press release. “Tonya and Rachel Smith are loving spouses and parents whose ideal home was denied to them because they are a same-sex couple with kids and Rachel is transgender. That’s not just wrong, it is unlawful."
“Housing discrimination is a pervasive problem for LGBT people and it is very much underreported,” Gonzalez-Pagan continued. “In many instances, LGBT people who are either overtly or subtly discriminated against in housing do not report the discrimination because of their immediate need to find housing or the costs of pursuing a claim."
Curiously, Avanti, the lawsuit says, had also cited to the Smiths a Boulder County law prohibiting more than three unrelated people from living in one residential unit. That suggests Avanti doesn't see the Smiths as a family, despite that Tonya and Rachel married five years ago. It was enough to add a measure of family discrimination to the claims of discrimination on sexuality orientation and gender identity.
The Smiths' lawsuit against Avanti seeks emotional and punitive damages in addition to injunctive relief requiring that Avanti stop discriminatory housing practices and take a fair housing training course, as well as reasonable attorneys' fees.
All bad psychic jokes aside, Avanti serves as a reminder that hardline religious fundamentalism doesn't have the market cornered on anti-gay prejudice and discrimination. As Lambda Legal's Gonzalez-Pagan said, no matter the motive, it's still unlawful. It's still wrong.