Missouri lesbian couple settles lawsuit against St. Louis retirement community
A Missouri lesbian couple has settled with a St. Louis retirement community that refused them to live there on the grounds that their relationship didn’t match the “biblical definition” of marriage.
Mary Walsh, 74, and Bev Nance, 70, sued the Friendship Village retirement community in Sunset Hills in 2018, alleging they were victims of sex discrimination.
Missouri lesbian couple looking for a home
The story of Walsh and Nance– who have been living together since 1978 and were married in 2009– started when they first heard about Friendship Village from friends who lived there.
Because the community wasn’t affiliated with or operated by any religious organizations, they did multiple visits to the place and paid a US$2,000 deposit in 2016.
However, because they were turned away based on the community’s definition of marriage of a man and a woman, the couple sued the community for violating the federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act.
The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in 2019, who said that the Fair Housing Act doesn’t protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
However, last July, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the decision back to the lower for reconsideration.
The appeals court cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in an employment discrimination case, Bostock v. Clayton County, that sexual orientation is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Case settlement under confidentiality
Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which represented Walsh and Nance, did not disclose the terms of settlement due to confidentiality.
However, Rothbert told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the couple and the retirement community have “resolved” their differences.
He further said he hoped the high court’s decision in the Title VII case would mean that “we hope not to see policies like we were challenging here in the future.”
Julie Wilensky, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which also represented the couple, said: “No one should have to fear being turned away from a retirement community because they are LGBTQ.”
Meanwhile, Walsh said in a statement, “This has been a harrowing experience and one that I hope no other same-sex couple has to face.”
“Bev and I are relieved that this case is now behind us and that we have closure after our lives were thrown into chaos,” she added.
Community leader on Missouri lesbian couple
However, the head of the St. Louis retirement community said he is pleased that the suit has been resolved.
“I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement and settlement with them and look forward to them potentially moving on campus in the future,” Terry Walsh, president and CEO of the Friendship Village Senior Services.
Walsh– who is also the executive director of Friendship Village Sunset Hills– told McKnight’s Senior Living that its board of directors has since changed its policy and the settlement agreed to “does not change anything.”
Likewise, he said, “The case came to a conclusion after the fact.”
Meanwhile, LGBT elder advocacy group SAGE CEO Michael Adams told McKnight’s Senior Living that the agreement “reflects that the ground has decisively shifted against discrimination and in favor of equal access to housing and care for older same-sex couples.”