A Christian senior citizen home in St. Louis has been sued by a lesbian couple after they were denied accommodation due to the center’s rule against same sex cohabitation.
“Seventy-two-year-old Mary Walsh and Bev Nance, 68, filed a federal lawsuit last month against the Missouri-based nondenominational nonprofit senior housing community Friendship Village Sunset Hills, a case that could have greater implications when it comes to the religious freedom rights of faith-based nonprofit institutions,” according to Christian Post.
The couple, Mary Walsh and Bev Nance, whose application was denied in 2016, claims that the senior center violated Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act.
Friendship Village’s cohabitation policy allows only for spouses, parents, children and siblings to live together in the same unit. Their corporate policy defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.”
“Although neither federal or Missouri law ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, lawyers for the couple argue that if either Walsh or Nance was a man, their application wouldn’t have been rejected,” according to the report. “The couple’s lawsuit not only asks the court to force Friendship Village to change its cohabitation policy but also asks the court for a permanent injunction that would allow the couple to move into Friendship Village, where several of their other friends reside.”
There are wide-ranging implications to this court case, not unlike the implications from the Supreme Court case in which a Christian baker was sued for not baking a cake for a gay wedding. The bakers eventually won the case.
The essential question is whether a business has the religious liberty to refuse service to those whose beliefs and lifestyles might violate the business’ religious convictions.
The lesbian couple will be represented by the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only — because they were married to each other rather than to men,” NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky said. “This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits. Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”
James S. Diel III, the vice president of the Friendship Village Services’ board of directors said that the organization is “prayerfully and thoughtfully reviewing this issue.”
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