Same-Sex Couple Denied by Senior Living Community That Cites the Bible as Its Reason for Rejecting Them
Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, have been together for four decades. They legally married in 2009, and wanted to move into a senior living community so they could grow old together and receive medical care if needed as they aged.
They met several times with Friendship Village Sunset Hills (photo) in St. Louis, Missouri, and even placed a $2000 deposit and signed on to a waiting list.
But just days before they were to sign a residency agreement and pay an additional deposit, the company called them asking about the nature of their relationship. They were told that Friendship Village Sunset Hills was rejecting them because they are lesbians in a same-sex marriage.
Now they’re suing.
“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,” Mary Walsh says in a statement. “We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.”
The complaint says Friendship Village told them in a letter they were being rejected “on the basis of a ‘Cohabitation Policy’ that defines marriage as ‘the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.'”
They were also told by phone that Friendship Village would not accept them because they were a same-sex couple, since the company “defined marriage as between a man and a woman.”
Friendship Village is not “affiliated with any religion or operated by any religious institution or order,” the lawsuit states. “Friendship Village is open to the public and does not inquire about the religious beliefs or affiliations of residents.”
The couple is suing, saying they were discriminated against “on the basis of sex—in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act (‘FHA’) and the Missouri Human Rights Act (‘MHRA’)—by denying them housing, according to their court complaint.
“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only—because they were married to each other rather than to men. This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky says. NCLR is representing the couple. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”
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Bill Barr’s DOJ Intervenes to Support Lawsuit Filed by Christian Photographer Refusing to Photograph Same-Sex Weddings
The U.S. Dept. of Justice under Attorney General Bill Barr has intervened in a pre-emptive lawsuit filed by a Kentucky wedding photographer who claims her interpretation of her Christian religion bars her from taking photos of weddings of same-sex couples.
No same-sex couple has ever tried to hire Chelsey Nelson to photograph their nuptials, but her attorneys, the far right wing Alliance Defending Freedom, filed the lawsuit against Louisville city officials anyway, according to the AP. The ADF appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
And now the Justice Dept. in a 23-page “statement of interest” says the “Court should find that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.”
In other words, the DOJ has told the court hearing her case directly that it agrees with the ADF.
The Louisville law bans businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ people. Many legal experts agree that refusing to provide a service to an entire class of people is discrimination, hence the countless laws across the country that protect LGBTQ people and other minorities from being refused services their non-LGBTQ peers regularly pay for and receive without question.
The DOJ, however, in a press release claims the legal statement it filed explains that Nelson “is likely to succeed on her claim that requiring her to photograph weddings against her conscience constitutes government-compelled speech that violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”
“The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.”
The ACLU disagrees, and “filed a brief defending the city, arguing that the Nelson’s intent to offer wedding photography only to heterosexual couples violates the city law.”
The renowned civil rights group calls Nelson’s position “identity-based discrimination.”
The SPLC says the Alliance Defending Freedom “has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.”
Arizona Supreme Court Hands Major Pro-Discrimination Decision to Anti-Gay Christian Conservatives
The Arizona Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of a calligraphy and wedding invitation company whose owners claim their religion forbids them to sell to same-sex couples. Brush & Nib Studio owners Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF also wrote their business operating agreement, according to ABC 10, before filing the lawsuit on the couple’s behalf.
The court ruled 4-3 that the City of Phoenix “cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance … to force Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski … to create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
This is a narrow ruling in that the court noted that its decision applies only to wedding invitations.
“We do not recognize a blanket exemption from the Ordinance for all of Plaintiffs’ business operations.”
“Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some. But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone. After all, while our own ideas may be popular today, they may not be tomorrow,” the court added.
At issue is the City of Phoenix’s six-year old anti-discrimination ordinance, which ADF attacked in court.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2016. The Duka and Koski are not suing because they have been accused of discrimination. They are preemptively suing for the “right” to reject lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender customers. The business owners lost a 2017 judgment and appealed in 2018.
The Southern Poverty Law Center includes the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on its list of anti-gay hate groups. SPLC in 2017 reported Brush & Nib is also a vendor on Etsy, and “voluntarily and willingly agreed to the vendor terms of service for the site, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
AZ Central notes that the state’s Supreme Court “has been packed by Gov. Doug Ducey with judges to his liking.” Ducey is a Republican.
Like many local non-discrimination ordinances, Phoenix’s bans discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability,” AZ Central adds.
Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Their ruling will have historic effects.
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates.
Georgetown Law Professor: Top Broadcaster ‘Likely’ Killed Interview Because Buttigieg Is Gay
A prominent Georgetown Law professor says Cumulus Media likely blocked an interview one of its country music station hosts had conducted with Pete Buttigieg from airing because the Democratic presidential candidate is gay.
After Huffpost reported that Blair Garner had been told by Cumulus Media he could not air any part of his interview with Buttigieg, Cumulus – the number three broadcaster in the nation of AM and FM radio stations – claimed the decision was based on the “equal time rule.”
Many quickly blasted Cumulus online.
But Talking Points Memo reached out to an expert, Georgetown Law Professor Andrew Schwartzman, who details his explanation but sums it up by saying Cumulus “likely” blocked the interview because Buttigieg is gay.
Schwartzman, a noted media attorney, told TPM the “equal time rule” does not apply to legitimate interviews.
“This was almost certainly a bona fide news interview,” Schwartzman says. “If another candidate asked for equal opportunity, equal time, the station could say no.”
TPM says Cumulus blocked the interview “under false pretenses.”
“This is much more likely to be about Cumulus not wanting to be seen as promoting a candidate who may not be particularly consonant with the proclivities of country station listeners since he is — how should we put this — gay,” Prof. Schwartzman concludes.
If there are any questions about Schwartzman’s bona fides, his stellar bio at Georgetown should put those to rest. It includes this:
From 1978 through 2012, Schwartzman headed Media Access Project (MAP). MAP was a non-profit public interest telecommunications law firm which represented the public in promoting the First Amendment rights to speak and to hear. It sought to promote creation of a well informed electorate by insuring vigorous debate in a free marketplace of ideas. It was the chief legal strategist in efforts to oppose major media mergers and preserve policies promoting media diversity.
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