An elderly woman said she was harassed and discriminated against at her retirement home in Illinois for being a lesbian. On Monday (28 August), a US appeals court granted her a crucial victory.
Marsha Wetzel moved into Glen St. Andrew Living Community in Niles, right outside of Chicago, after her longtime partner passed away.
While residing there, she said she faced terrible homophobic abuse, including residents yelling slurs at her and spitting on her.
In another incident, Wetzel alleged one resident rammed into her scooter and toppled it over. She said she fell and bruised her arm.
Wetzel sued in 2016, claiming the retirement home did nothing to stop the harassment and they also retaliated against her. Last year, a federal judge dismissed her lawsuit against the community.
A trio of judges from the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, however, overturned that ruling. They determined the operators of Glen St. Andrew could be responsibile for housing discrimination and sent the case back to trial.
An even bigger victory looms
Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote of the case: ‘Not only does it (the Fair Housing Act) create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminates against a tenant based on a protected characteristic; it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment … yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.’
Should the trial case find in Wetzel’s favor, it will be a victory not only for her, but the LGBTI community at large, and especially senior citizens.
‘She, just like all people living in rental housing, whether LGBT or not, should be assured that they will at least be safe from discriminatory harassment in their own homes,’ said Lambda Legal senior counsel Karen Loewy of Wetzel.
Glen St. Andrew continues to deny the reports.
‘At this stage, the court was required to assume the factual allegations of plaintiff’s complaint were true for purposes of determining the legal issues,’ they said in a statement. ‘Glen St. Andrew strongly denies the factual allegations of the complaint and will present its case in court at the appropriate time.’
H/t: Chicago Tribune