A federal judge has dismissed an elderly lesbian couple’s lawsuit against a Missouri senior living community, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As NewNowNext previously reported, wives Mary Walsh and Bev Nance sued Friendship Village of Sunset Homes senior living community for discrimination after they were rejected from the facility because of its “cohabitation policy.” The policy defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible,” meaning Friendship Village didn’t recognize Walsh and Nance’s committed relationship of almost 40 years—and both women were out $2,000, since they’d already put down a deposit to secure housing.
The incident occured in 2016, and Walsh and Nance filed their lawsuit in July 2018 with the help of lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
Last Wednesday, however, a federal judge ruled that the Fair Housing Act—passed in 1968 to protect buyers or renters of housing in the U.S. from identity-based discrimination—doesn’t actually encompass discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“Under [the] circumstances, the Court finds the claims boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual orientation rather than sex alone,” the decision reads, citing similar court cases from previous years. “The Eighth Circuit has squarely held that ‘Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against homosexuals.’”
In a statement to the Post-Dispatch, Julie Wilensky, an NCLR senior staff attorney representing Walsh and Nance, said the case was “a straightforward example of discrimination ‘because of sex.’”
“Planning for senior housing is a big decision, and Mary and Bev chose Friendship Village because it was in their community, they had friends there, and it offered services that would allow them to stay together there for the rest of their lives,” Wilensky said. “If Mary were a man married to Bev, instead of a woman married to Bev, Friendship Village would not have turned them away.”
Wilensky also added that Walsh, Nance, and their legal team are considering next steps on the case.