Lawyers for Friendship Village have asked a federal court to dismiss a same-sex couple's discrimination lawsuit against the St. Louis County retirement community.
In a response filed Friday, lawyers for Friendship Village deny the facility discriminated against Mary Walsh and Beverly Nance on the basis of sex. The lawyers argue that the retirement community denied the couple housing based on the organization's religious convictions.
In denying their housing application in July 2016, the senior living community in Sunset Hills mailed the couple a copy of its “cohabitation policy,” which defines marriage as between a man and a woman as it is “understood in the Bible.”
Walsh and Nance filed a lawsuit in federal court against Friendship Village in July, alleging sex discrimination in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act.
In their response, lawyers for Friendship Village say the community’s decision to turn away the couple was due to the “faith-based nature of the organization.” However, they acknowledge the facility is not affiliated with any church, and that it does not typically ask about the religious beliefs of applicants.
The defense team also said Friendship Village has permitted “a small number” of unmarried heterosexual couples to live at the facility, despite the fact that they did not meet the requirements of the policy.
The facility admitted the unmarried couples without the knowledge or approval of the board of directors, according to lawyers for Friendship Village.
The couple’s legal team, which includes the ACLU of Missouri and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, say they plan to file a response in court on Oct. 5.
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