Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, applied to be residents at Friendship Village, a senior living community in Sunset Hills, Missouri, reported the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Their friends urged them to move there, and it was the only community that offered the care options they required for the costs they could afford.
The two made multiple visits to the facility, had extensive conversations with staff, and eventually paid a $2000 deposit.
Their plans were cut short: Walsh and Nance said they were rejected from the senior living community because the two were married.
The couple says they received a letter from a Friendship Village administrator that said, “Your request to share a single unit does not fall within the categories permitted by the long-standing policy of Friendship Village Sunset Hills.”
The couple, who have been together for almost four decades, are suing Friendship Village, claiming that their cohabitation policy, which defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible,” is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and American Civil Liberties is representing the pair.
“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only – because they were married to each other than men,” said Julie Wilensky, a lawyer for the Center. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits.”
Some other legal professionals don’t believe Welsh and Nance will win the case.
“My gut instinct is they’re probably out of luck. When a private body doesn’t want to rent a room to you, for them, that’s freedom of association,” Anders Walker, a constitutional professor at St. Louis University, said. “They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”
If this case is won by Walsh and Nance, it could mean a redefinition of the Fair Housing Law, which could include an expansion to defend people on the specific basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Walsh said this rejection from Friendship Village is not the first time she and Nance had faced prejudice, but she’d hoped things had changed: “In my mind, the time has come for this to be corrected.”