October 2018 Church & State - October 2018

Mo. Couple Claims Discrimination In Retirement Housing Case

  Rob Boston

A lesbian couple in Missouri is suing a senior-living facility that refused to let them live there due to their sexual orientation.

Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, of Shrewsbury said they were rejected by Friendship Village even after they had put down a $2,000 deposit because officials at the facility said the couple violated a policy upholding “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

The couple has been together for decades and has been legally married since 2009. Their attorneys say Friendship Village’s policy violates the federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only – because they were married to each other rather than to men,” Julie Wilensky, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a news release. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits. Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

Friendship Village is a nonprofit whose website summarizes its goals as: “Guided by Biblical values, continually serve the senior community with quality offerings that promote lifelong well-being.”

However, Walsh said she assumed that because marriage equality is now the law of the land, the couple would have the right to live where they wanted.

“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,” said Walsh. “We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.” (Walsh v. Friendship Village)

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