Illinois: Court Win For Elderly Lesbian In Senior Home Harassment Suit

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an elderly woman who alleges she was discriminated against and harassed while living in a senior retirement home in Illinois for being lesbian.
Marsha Wetzel of Illinois

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an elderly lesbian woman who alleges she was discriminated against and harassed while living in a senior retirement home in Illinois.

Marsha Wetzel moved into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, near Chicago, in 2014 after her longtime partner Judy had died of colon cancer.

In the aftermath of Judy’s passing, Judy’s family did not respect the 30 year relationship. The family took possession of Judy’s assets including the home they’d shared.

And so, Marsha had to find a place to live, and she found Glen St. Andrew.

But by 2016, she was forced to file a lawsuit after she experienced ugly, homophobic abuse at the hands of other residents and Glen St. Andrew did nothing about it.

Marsha says she was called anti-gay slurs and spit upon by residents. In her lawsuit she also alleged that she had been attacked and hit in the head in the community laundry room.

Additionally, she fell and bruised her arm when another resident rammed into her scooter knocking her over.

When Marsha took her concerns to management, nothing was done and she was retaliated against, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Lambda Legal created the heartbreaking video below when Marsha began her legal battle in 2016.

When the case went to trial last year, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

But undeterred, Marsha soldiered on to the 7th Circuit Appeals Court where yesterday a panel of three judges overturned the 2017 ruling and sent the case back to be tried.

The panel came to the conclusion that Glen St. Andrew could be held liable for housing discrimination.

Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote in the ruling, ‘“Not only does it (the Fair Housing Act) create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminates against a tenant based on a protected characteristic; it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment … yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.”

The win at the 7th Circuit was celebrated by Lambda Legal senior counsel Karen Loewy, who said in a statement after the ruling, “This is a tremendous victory for Marsha.”

“She, just like all people living in rental housing, whether LGBT or not, should be assured that they will at least be safe from discriminatory harassment in their own homes, “ Loewy continued. “What happened to Marsha was illegal and unconscionable, and the Court has now put all landlords on notice that they have an obligation to take action to stop known harassment.”

A statement released by a Glen St. Andrew spokesperson said while the senior home “is committed to providing fair, safe and non-discriminatory housing, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex or sexual orientation,” the retirement home still denies the allegations.

“At this stage, the court was required to assume the factual allegations of plaintiff’s complaint were true for purposes of determining the legal issues,” they said in a statement. “Glen St. Andrew strongly denies the factual allegations of the complaint and will present its case in court at the appropriate time.”

7th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules In Favor Of Transgender Student

Via press release:

Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a groundbreaking ruling in favor of Ash Whitaker, the transgender student plaintiff in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District. In a unanimous decision authored by Judge Ann Claire Williams, the court upheld the preliminary injunction, issued by a federal district court in September 2016, that has allowed Ash, a senior at Tremper High School in the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to use the boys’ restrooms at school throughout his senior year without fear of discipline or invasive surveillance by school officials.

In this landmark decision, the unanimous three-judge panel held that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court agreed with the lower court’s conclusions that Ash was harmed significantly by the Kenosha Unified School District’s discriminatory practices that singled him out from other students and that KUSD failed to provide more than “sheer conjecture” that permitting Ash to use the boys’ restrooms would harm anyone. The court wrote:

“The School District has failed to provide any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any of its students or parents. . . . , whereas the harms to Ash are well-documented and supported by the record.” The court further described the school district’s actions as “arbitrary” and in violation of Ash’s Constitutional rights.

With this decision, the Seventh Circuit (which covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) is the first federal appeals court to find conclusively that a transgender student has the right to be treated in accordance with the student’s gender identity at school under both Title IX and the Constitution. Notably, it is also the first decision to reach that conclusion without reliance on the Obama Administration’s guidance on schools’ Title IX obligations to transgender students, which the Trump Administration rescinded in February.

Before the injunction, Ash had been using the boys’ restrooms for the first seven months of his junior year without incident until school administrators intervened, threatened him with disciplinary action, and subjected him to constant surveillance. To avoid punishment, Ash tried to avoid using the bathroom at school altogether. As a result of being singled out for discrimination by his school, Ash suffered serious depression, anxiety, and other physical and educational harms.

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Stays Same-sex Marriage Ruling Pending SCOTUS Action

Click pic to enlarge

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay on the ruling in the Wisconsin marriage equality case for now.

Last month the federal appellate court found marriage bans in both Wisconsin and Indiana to be unconstitutional.

The one page order reads as follows: “The stay will terminate automatically if the certiorari petition (to the Supreme Court) is denied or will terminate upon the judgment of the Supreme Court if the certiorari petition is granted.”

In addition to Wisconsin’s marriage case, the Supreme Court has received petitions of certiorari for marriage cases in Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.  The question for now is – which case will SCOTUS take up?  Or will it be none?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg recently indicated that should the ruling in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals fall in line with all the other pro-marriage equality rulings, SCOTUS may not see a reason to rush to rule on any of the cases.

SCOTUS has indicated that the same-sex marriage cases are on the agenda for consideration on September 29th.


Anti-gay hate group leader cries over 7th Circuit Court ruling for equal rights

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins rode the waahmbulance yesterday, sobbing over the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals UNANIMOUS decision that both Indiana and Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional:

“I am very troubled that this court failed to recognize the self-evident truth that children need and deserve a mom and dad. The ruling doesn’t appear to allow society to choose to maintain a coherent definition of marriage. The courts have no true constitutional authority to unilaterally change the definition of our most fundamental social institution. Yet this court is engaging in judicial activism unlike yesterday’s federal court ruling which upheld the right of Louisiana voters to preserve natural marriage in their state’s public policy.

“The Seventh Circuit’s radical departure from natural law and the received wisdom of human history continues to undermine the legitimacy of the courts in the eyes of a majority of Americans. Marriage redefinitions imposed by judicial fiat cannot change the truth about marriage, men, women, children, and parenting. Ultimately, the American people will have the final word as they experience the consequences of marriage redefinition and the ways in which it fundamentally alters America’s moral, cultural and political landscape.”

7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules Indiana and Wisconsin bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional

In what is now the fourth appellate ruling in favor of marriage equality, a panel of 3 federal judges for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that the same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana unconstitutional

From MetroWeekly:

According to the 40-page unanimous ruling authored by Judge Richard Posner, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, “discrimination against same-sex couples is irrational, and therefore unconstitutional even if the discrimination is not subjected to heightened scrutiny.”

Ruling in two cases, the court found the governments of Indiana and Wisconsin have given no reason to think they have a “reasonable basis” for forbidding same-sex marriage.

“Discrimination by a state or the federal government against a minority, when based on an immutable characteristic of the members of that minority (most familiarly skin color and gender), and occurring against an historical background of discrimination against the persons who have that characteristic, makes the discriminatory law or policy constitutionally suspect,” the ruling states.

Oral arguments were heard before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week in Chicago.

According to Gallup Polls, 55% of Americans support marriage equality. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 77% of Americans under the age of 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.

Cue the haters in 3, 2, 1…

Wisconsin & Indiana in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today on same-sex marriage bans

Oral arguments are under way in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals with Indiana and Wisconsin attempting to defend their respective state’s same-sex marriage bans.

According to Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, the good guys catch what might be a good break from the get-go as the legal journalist feels the judges assigned the case are possible good fit for marriage equality.

UPDATE – Chris Johnson just tweeted this after the close of oral arguments:

LGBT legal journalist Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed posted this “first take”:

And The Bilerico Project had this to say: