Lesbian couple sues Christian retirement community for denying housing application
ST. LOUIS, August 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A “married” lesbian couple is taking a Christian retirement community to court over its requirement that prospective residents abide by Christian moral principles.
Friendship Village is a non-profit retirement community “guided by Biblical values” that holds “Faithful Service” as one of its core values, according to its website. Despite the Bible’s unambiguous teachings on homosexuality, Mary Walsh and Bev Nance of Shrewsbury applied in 2016 to move to Friendship Village, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Walsh and Nance have been together for 37 years and got “married” in Massachusetts in 2009. After they paid a $2,000 deposit and got placed on a waiting list, they say Friendship Village rejected their application on the grounds that it would violate the community’s “longstanding” policy that only allows cohabitation among parent-child relationships, siblings, or marriages of one man and one woman.
So Walsh and Nance have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, arguing that the policy violates both the Fair Housing Act and Missouri Human Rights Act. They are being represented by the Washington-based law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, as well as the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights out of San Francisco.
“This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” attorney Julie Wilensky claimed. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”
Walsh claims to have been “stunned” that the Christian retirement community had a problem with their homosexual union, explaining that she never thought to ask Friendship Village about it before because a representative of another community “said, ‘No, we don’t have any problem at all’” and “looked at me so strangely I never asked the question again.” She did not clarify whether the other community was a religious organization, however.
Friendship Village’s management company FV Services is declining to comment on the case for the time being, stating that it has “just been made aware of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen and have not had an opportunity to review.” They will be discussing it with legal counsel before responding publicly.
Friendship Village may be able to deny housing to the Shrewsbury couple because it is a private company, and same-sex couples are not considered a protected class under federal law, said Anders Walker, a constitutional law professor at St. Louis University.
“My gut instinct is they’re probably out of luck,” Walker told the Dispatch, noting that same-sex couples were not yet a specifically-protected class under federal law. “When a private body doesn’t want to rent a room to you, for them, that’s freedom of association. They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”
How far the case will go through the court system remains an open question, however, in light of ongoing litigation across the country over private, religious businesses being forced to serve homosexual unions. Even Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who won a narrow Supreme Court victory on the subject earlier this summer, is back in court fighting the Colorado Civil Rights Division’s attempts to force him to bake a cake celebrating a “gender transition.”
Princeton University professor and prominent Catholic thinker Robert George said on Facebook Sunday that the story puts the lie to LGBT activists’ insistence during the campaign for same-sex “marriage” that they sought only to “live and let live.”
“I warned everyone who would listen--especially libertarian-minded conservatives who are easily sold on ‘live and let live’ policies--that this was simply a tactic and would be forgotten the moment the redefinition of marriage was achieved,” George recalled. “Enormous pressure--social, political, economic, and even legal--would be brought on institutions (including religiously affiliated institutions) to force them to get in line with the new ‘progressive’ conception of marriage.”
The evidence vindicating such fears, he lamented, is now “everywhere.”