Missouri: Judge Dismisses Housing Lawsuit Filed By Married Lesbian Couple

Mary Walsh (L) & Bev Nance (R)
(image via Mary Walsh)

A Missouri lesbian couple was told they couldn’t buy a unit in a retirement community because they’re married.

The women took their case to court, filing a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination.

They lost.

Beverly Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, have been in a committed relationship for 40 years, and married for ten.

In 2016, the couple visited and applied to move into the Friendship Village Sunset Hills community – doesn’t that sound lovely? – a retirement community near St. Louis.

They were qualified tenants and they even put down a $2,000 deposit.

But a week after putting down the deposit, a representative of Friendship Village called to inquire about the nature of the women’s relationship.

When Walsh informed the rep that they were married, they were told they couldn’t move into Friendship Village because it has a policy that “defined marriage as between a man and a woman” and as “marriage is understood in the Bible.”

So, the women, with the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued in federal court claiming that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) had been violated.

The FHA bans discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.”

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only – because they were married to each other rather than to men,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky in a statement. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits.”

But U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton didn’t see it that way and dismissed their case this week, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“The Court finds the claims boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual orientation rather than sex alone,” wrote Judge Hamilton. “The Eighth Circuit has squarely held that ‘Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against homosexuals.’”

In the state of Missouri, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is legal. There are no statewide protections for LGBTQ people in the Show Me state.

The couple’s lawyers told reporters, “We disagree with the court’s decision, and our clients are considering next steps.”

Florida Man Being Evicted From New Apartment For Being Gay

Randall Coffman of Florida is being evicted from his new apartment for being gay
Randall Coffman is being evicted for being gay

On December 1, just 21 days ago, Randall Coffman moved into his new apartment in Clay County, located just outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

The apartment has its own entrance but is attached to the home of his landlord, Jackie Cooper.

A couple of weeks after moving in, Cooper saw Coffman and told him she didn’t want him inviting girls over late into the night.

Coffman informed his landlord that wouldn’t be a problem since he’s gay.

“I’ve been gay since I was born,” said Coffman according to First Coast News. “After that, the harassment for being gay started.”

The next day, Cooper approached her new tenant and told him he had to leave – because he’s gay.

Sensing trouble, Coffman recorded the conversation. Watch the report from First Coast News below.

“Listen to me now, you have to leave this place,” says Cooper in the video. “You didn’t tell me you’re gay until yesterday.”

“Why do I have to tell you I’m gay?,” asked Coffman. “I don’t have to tell you.”

Cooper responded, “You think I want homosexuals coming in and out of my place like that?”

Cooper denies the issue is Coffman being gay, even though she’s caught on video saying exactly that. She says Coffman failed to provide a copy of his driver’s license.

Even though Cooper’s position is discriminatory, the law is currently on her side.

Jacksonville’s 2017 Human Rights Ordinance protects LGBTQ tenants from housing discrimination, but Cooper’s Clay County home is located outside of the city limits.

Neither Cooper nor Coffman signed a lease making his arrangement a verbal month-to-month agreement. In such cases, a landlord can kick a tenant out with 15 days notice.

According to Coffman, Cooper gave him until the 27th to vacate the apartment, which is just shy of the 15-day rule.

But Coffman, currently looking for a new place to live, says he won’t put up a fight. He tells First Coast News he’s uncomfortable about returning to the property.

Lesbian Couple Denied Housing at St. Louis Senior Community

 A senior same-sex married couple in Missouri have been turned away by a senior housing community because of the couple’s sexual orientation.
Bev Nance and Mary Walsh (image via Mary Walsh)

 A senior lesbian married couple in Missouri have been turned away by a senior housing community because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting on a new law suit filed by Bev Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, who have been denied housing by the Friendship Village senior living community because they are married to each other.

The couple, who have been together for almost four decades and legally married since 2009, had toured the Sunset Hills location several times and even put down a $2,000 deposit.

According to the lawsuit, the couple were denied housing because their same-sex relationship violated Friendship Village’s cohabitation policy that views marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

The Post Dispatch received a statement from Friendship Village which read: “We have just been made aware of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen and have not had an opportunity to review. This matter will be discussed with legal counsel and (we) have no further comment at this time.”

Nance and Walsh are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and Washington-based law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax.

The couple’s legal team says the policy violates the Fair Housing Act in terms of sex discrimination. Since the women are married to females, not men, the decision to deny them occupancy is, in essence, discrimination based on their sex.

However, Missouri’s public accommodation laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity.

“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,” said Julie Wilensky, an attorney for the NCLR, said in a statement to the press. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

The couple attempted to move into Friendship Village in 2016. After multiple visits and several conversations with the staff they put down a $2,000 deposit in order to get on a waiting list. It was only after that they were informed of the “longstanding” policy on cohabitation.

From The Post-Dispatch:

The Friendship Village website says it is a nonprofit that provides “a fulfilling, worry-free lifestyle” to more than 1,000 seniors in Chesterfield and Sunset Hills. Its mission statement says, “Guided by Biblical values, continually serve the senior community with quality offerings that promote lifelong well-being.”

Walsh and Nance considered other housing but said Friendship Village was the only place in the St. Louis area “that can provide increased levels of care without an increased monthly cost to residents.”

According to the lawsuit, a letter to Walsh dated July 29, 2016, from Michael Heselbarth, a top administrator with the retirement village, said: “ Your request to share a single unit does not fall within the categories permitted by the long-standing policy of Friendship Village Sunset Hills.”

Legal experts are divided on the possibility of winning the lawsuit.

Anders Walker, a constitutional law professor at St. Louis University, told the Post-Dispatch, “My gut instinct is they’re probably out of luck.”

“When a private body doesn’t want to rent a room to you, for them, that’s freedom of association,” he added. “They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”

But Marcia McCormick, an employment and labor law expert, says Friendship Village’s religious freedom claim “does have to be sincere. The defense of the First Amendment does not excuse discrimination in the Fair Housing Law.”

(h/t St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Campaign Ad: “My Name Is Mae Wiggins”

From Mediaite:

Meet Mae Wiggins. She is a woman of color who was told by the Trump Corporation that there were no apartments available for her to rent. When she took her suspicions that they were lying to her over to the New York Human Rights Commission, they sent a white couple, per the standard practice of the time, to the property only to learn that there were, in fact, vacancies and the white couple was more than welcome to rent one of the units.

Among the many shocking claims in Hillary Clinton‘s latest ad, which features Wiggins, viewers learn that after Donald Trump took over the business from his father, Trump personnel were instructed to write a “C” for “colored” on the housing application of any non-white prospective tenant. That came from Elyse Goldweber, an attorney on the Justice Department’s eventual case against Trump. A New York Times piece from August revealed that Trump’s father, Fred Trump, simply dealt with applications from people of color by instructing his staff to put them in a drawer and leave them there.