A lesbian couple from St. Louis is suing a Sunset Hills senior housing community for discrimination, saying they were denied living there for being a same-sex couple.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit against Friendship Village on Wednesday, July 25, on behalf of Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68. The complaint alleges that Friendship Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act and Missouri Human Rights Act by discriminating against Walsh and Nance, denying them a unit because they are a same-sex couple.
Friendship Village allegedly told the married couple it would not accept them because it followed the “biblical definition” of marriage and defined marriage as between a man and a woman, according to the suit.
“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. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits.”
Before deciding on Friendship Village, Walsh and Nance made multiple visits, met with several staff members and paid a $2,000 deposit for a unit, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights. After months of being encouraged by Friendship Village to live there, the women were “shocked” to be denied housing because of being a same-sex couple, according to the lawsuit.
When asked about the suit Wednesday, Friendship Village’s management company FV Services released the following statement:
“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.”
Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri, said Missouri seniors should not be subjected to the pain and discrimination faced by Walsh and Nance.
“Mary and Bev were financially and otherwise qualified for residency in the Friendship Village community,” he said. “Their exclusion from this community is the result of discrimination alone.”