Married Lesbian Couple Denied Housing by Senior Living Community, Lawsuit Claims

A senior living community center in Missouri allegedly denied a married lesbian couple housing because of their sexual identity, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday claims.

Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, from St. Louis, claim the Friendship Village of Sunset Hills, a senior living community in Sunset Hills, Missouri, denied the couple housing in 2016 on the basis of a “cohabitation policy” that defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible,” according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit claims that the Friendship Village of Sunset Hills's policy violates the federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act by denying Walsh and Nance housing two years ago.

“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 National Center for Lesbian Rights senior staff attorney Julie Wilensky, who is representing the couple, in a statement. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 1 Friendship Village Sunset Hills in Sunset Hills, Missouri. The senior living community is being sued by a married lesbian couple for allegedly denying them housing, the lawsuit states. Google Maps/Screenshot

Walsh and Nance, who have been together for 37 years, wanted to move out of their single-family St. Louis home, and several of their friends recommended that the couple check out Friendship Village senior living community. After visiting the center and meeting with residents and staff members, the two put down a $2,000 deposit in July 2016, according to the lawsuit. The residence director, Carmen Fronczak, told the couple the center would not accept them because they were a same-sex couple, the lawsuit states.

The senior living community “is open to the public and does not inquire about the religious beliefs or affiliations of residents,” according to the lawsuit.

“We’ve been together for nearly 40 years and have spent our lives in St. Louis. We want to grow older here by each other’s side,” said Walsh in a statement. “We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.”

In an emailed statement to Newsweek, the Friendship Village senior living community said on Wednesday it was made aware of the lawsuit and is discussing the matter with  legal counsel, but it did not have any further comment at this time. 

The lawsuit comes a week after a man in Indianapolis claimed he was denied flowers for his wedding by a flower shop. David Elliott said he walked into Avon Florist in Avon, near Indianapolis, and told the manager of the shop that he was looking for flowers for his upcoming nuptials. When he mentioned he would need two boutonnieres, one for him and one for his partner, the manager said she was unable to help him.