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Judge Throws Out Lesbian Couple’s Case Against Retirement Community

Missouri lesbian couple

Retirement is hard enough — add being LGBTQ+ to the mix, and it can be a nightmare.

A Missouri lesbian couple’s federal lawsuit against a retirement community has been dismissed by a U.S. district judge, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Mary Walsh and Bev Nance filed the lawsuit after they were barred from moving into Friendship Village, a retirement community in Sunset Hills, Missouri, because the facility’s cohabitation policy defines marriage as a “union between a man and a woman.” By the time they were barred from entry, they had already toured the facility and paid a $2,000 deposit.

U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton ruled that the Fair Housing Act does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Nance and Walsh filed suit in July 2018.

“Ms. Walsh and Ms. Nance were shocked to be turned away because of who they are and felt humiliated, stigmatized, and demeaned,” their lawsuit said, according to the Post-Dispatch. The lawsuit also argued the couple were treated “less favorably because of their sex (and) less favorably because of their association with a person of a particular sex ... (and) on the basis of their nonconformity with sex stereotypes.”

Hamilton’s decision did note that it contradicted rulings by other federal courts. In April 2017, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore ruled in a case out of Colorado that the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sex discrimination includes same-sex couples. The 2017 decision was the first time a federal judge had ruled on the Fair Housing Act as it applies to same-sex couples.

Julie Wilensky, one of the couple’s attorney’s called the experience at the retirement community “very hurtful” in an email to the Post-Dispatch.

“If Mary were a man married to Bev, instead of a woman married to Bev, Friendship Village would not have turned them away,” Wilensky wrote. “This is a very straightforward example of discrimination ‘because of sex.’”

Wilensky noted that the couple are considering next steps in their legal situation.

Related | Historic Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law Passed in New York

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