A lesbian couple from St. Louis have filed a lawsuit against a nursing home which rejected their application for being gay and married.
Bev Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, have been together since 1978, and got married in Massachusetts in 2009.
Despite never hiding their relationship, an employee of the facility, Carmen Fronczak, called them to say that their application had been rejected because they are lesbians.
“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. We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.”
Nance and Walsh had carefully chosen Friendship Village, won over by having friends who lived their and the home having an on-site medical facility where they could get treatment as needed as they aged.
Then they received a formal rejection letter.
“Your request to share a single unit does not fall within the categories permitted by the long-standing policy of Friendship Village Sunset Hills,” it read.
“The term ‘marriage’ as used in this policy means the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible,” according to the home’s ‘cohabitation policy’.
The company which owns the home describes itself as a “faith-based not-for-profit” with no specific affiliation.
Their lawsuit alleges that the home’s policy violates the Federal Fair Housing Act and state housing laws.
Advocates have lobbied the Missouri government for years to extend anti-discrimination laws to LGBTI people, but Walsh and Nance’s lawsuit argues that their rejection constitutes gender discrimination, arguing that if either one of them were a man, their application would not be rejected.
“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 Julie Wilensky of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”
Older LGBTI Australians are often invisible, with increasing research and resources going towards better providing for the needs of our elders.
LGBTI elders often face abuse, neglect, or a lack of understanding around their identity or their specific medical requirements.