#Missouri

Married Lesbian Couple Turned Away By Senior Living Community In Missouri

A senior same-sex married couple in Missouri have been turned away by a senior housing community because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting on a new law suit filed by Bev Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, who have been denied housing by the Friendship Village senior living community because they are married to each other.

The couple, who have been together for almost four decades and legally married since 2009, had toured the Sunset Hills location several times and even put down a $2,000 deposit. 

According to the lawsuit, the couple were denied housing because their same-sex relationship violated Friendship Village’s cohabitation policy that views marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch received a statement from Friendship Village which read: “We have just been made aware of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen and have not had an opportunity to review. This matter will be discussed with legal counsel and (we) have no further comment at this time.”

Nance and Walsh are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and Washington-based law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax.

The couple’s legal team says the policy violates the Fair Housing Act in terms of sex discrimination. Since the women are married to females, not men, the decision to deny them occupancy is, in essence, discrimination based on their sex.

However, Missouri’s public accommodation laws don’t explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only — because they were married to each other rather than to men. This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” said Julie Wilensky, an attorney for the NCLR,  in a statement to the press. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

The couple attempted to move into Friendship Village in 2016. After multiple visits and several conversations with the staff they put down a $2,000 deposit in order to get on a waiting list. It was only after that they were informed of the “longstanding” policy on cohabitation.

From The Post-Dispatch

The Friendship Village website says it is a nonprofit that provides “a fulfilling, worry-free lifestyle” to more than 1,000 seniors in Chesterfield and Sunset Hills. Its mission statement says, “Guided by Biblical values, continually serve the senior community with quality offerings that promote lifelong well-being.”

Walsh and Nance considered other housing but said Friendship Village was the only place in the St. Louis area “that can provide increased levels of care without an increased monthly cost to residents.”

According to the lawsuit, a letter to Walsh dated July 29, 2016, from Michael Heselbarth, a top administrator with the retirement village, 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.”

Legal experts are divided on the possibility of winning the lawsuit.

Anders Walker, a constitutional law professor at St. Louis University, told the Post-Dispatch, “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," he added. "They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”

But Marcia McCormick, an employment and labor law expert, says Friendship Village’s religious freedom claim “does have to be sincere. The defense of the First Amendment does not excuse discrimination in the Fair Housing Law.”

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people, issued this statement via email.

“The horrible discrimination experienced by this older lesbian couple – for something as basic as senior housing – is a stark reminder of the challenges that many LGBT elders face. We know that this story is far from unique. Research shows that 45 percent of same-sex couples who apply for senior housing in Missouri are discriminated against. This lawsuit will help ensure that Mary and Bev – and all older same-sex couples—will have the same access to senior housing as everybody else.”

 

(h/t St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Kansas City Gay Man Shot After Clubbing In What Many Call A Homophobic Attack

Police are still investigating the murder of Kansas City resident Ta’Ron Carson.

24-year-old Carson, whose friends also called him Rio, left club Aura early Sunday morning on March 4. As he sat at a bench on the corner of 39th and Main, Carson was shot by two people in a black SUV.

Brittany Bronson, a friend of Carson told Kansas City Fox News that she saw his final moments. The two had split up after exiting the club, and Bronson got inside her car. She then heard gunshots, turned around, and saw her friend on the ground.

“I saw my boy, I sa Ta’Ron, I saw Rio, I saw my boo,” Bronson struggled to say. “I saw him on the ground, like, I saw him. I saw him go.” [sic]

In the wake of his death, Carson's friends and community members have nothing but good words to say about the man.

“In gay vernacular, particularly in black gay vernacular, there is a term called "beating your face" and so Rio would always be beat for the gods,” said friend D. Rashaan Gilmore. “That is just powder, pad, getting your face together, because he was beautiful.”

"The beauty of Rio is that because of how he lived his life,” added Gilmore, “It helped to free others to live their lives in that way.”

Bronson also added that Rio’s love for himself helped him take care of others, “Rio, he loved himself, and in loving yourself you are able to love so many more people.”

 

 

It seems that’s increasingly true when it came to the people Rio chose to surround himself with.

The associate at Chipotle Mexican Grill and makeup artist at Sephora was known for his crazy home life. He had invited a diverse group of people to live with him either temporarily or permanently to the point that one friend called his house a circus.

All of this love in and around Carson was shown again on March 8th when more than a 100 people showed up for the candlelight vigil celebrating his life and mourning his death.

As the Kansas City Star reports, 100 people sat in the Center for Spiritual Living at 1014 W 39th Street, and more stood by the front doors as Carson’s parents spoke.

"Who you love is nobody's damn business, as long as they love you," said the father. He added that what was important is that you treat people right. "And he did that."

From there, the group then walked over to the spot where Carson was shot.

"This is a show of love and solidarity that I think Rio would be proud of," Gilmore said. "You have a responsibility when you walk out of these doors. The responsibility is to remain vigilant. We're going to stay on top of the police department. There will be no sweeping under the rug, no cold-casing this one."

 

 

 

 

Gilmore also added that the community would keep a watchful eye over the court case to see that justice is served.

Unfortunately, however, no culprit has been found yet.

While many believe Carson’s murder is a hate crime, police announced that they think he wasn’t the intended target of the attack. Instead, he’s the victim of mistaken identity.

On top of that, they’ve announced that the vehicle investigators were looking for is no longer being sought.

If you have any useful information that could help catch Rio’s killers, call the TIPS hotline at (816) 474-TIPS. All calls are anonymous.

h/t:  fox4kc.com/