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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