A federal judge on Thursday ruled
against a married lesbian couple who were rejected by a senior
housing community in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mary Walsh and Bev Nance claim that
Friendship Village at Sunset Hills told them that they would not
accept them because it follows the “Biblical definition” of
marriage and “defined marriage as between a man and a woman.”
The women, who married in 2009, filed a
federal lawsuit against Friendship Village, which is not affiliated
with or operated by a religious order. Friendship Village is the
only such community in the area that offers increased levels of care
without an increase in cost to residents.
The couple is represented by the
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the ACLU of Missouri.
“Mary and Bev were denied housing for
one reason and one reason only – because they were married to each
other rather than men,” NCLR said in a statement in July. “This
is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act
U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton
ruled that Friendship Village had not violated the Fair Housing Act
because the law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual
orientation, the St.
Louis Dispatch reported.
“Under [the] circumstances, the Court
finds the claims boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual
orientation rather than sex alone,” Hamilton said in his ruling.
NCLR disagreed with Hamilton's ruling
in a statement.
“Planning for senior housing is a big
decision, and Mary and Bev chose Friendship Village because it is in
their community, they have friends there, and it offers services that
would allow them to stay together there for the rest of their lives,”
said Julie Wilensky, senior staff attorney at NCLR. “The
discrimination they experienced was very hurtful. If Mary were a man
married to Bev, instead of a woman married to Bev, Friendship Village
would not have turned them away. This is a straightforward example
of discrimination 'because of sex.' We disagree with the court's
decision, and our clients are considering next steps.”