On July 25, 2018, Relman Colfax filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against Friendship Village Sunset Hills, a senior living community in St. Louis County, and its parent company, FV Services, Inc. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mary Walsh and Bev Nance, a married lesbian couple, who were denied housing at Friendship Village because they are a same-sex couple.

The lawsuit alleges that Friendship Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act by discriminating against Walsh and Nance on the basis of sex. Walsh and Nance seek a declaratory judgment that Friendship Village's policy violates federal and state fair housing laws, compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction against further enforcement of the policy.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit in January 2019, holding that the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination does not protect same-sex couples.  Plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which put the appeal on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, an employment discrimination case.  In June 2020, after the Supreme Court held that discrimination against LGBTQ people is sex discrimination, Mary and Bev’s case was reinstated in the district court, and soon thereafter the parties reached a confidential settlement to resolve the case.

The Relman Colfax litigation team is co-counseling with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Missouri, and St. Louis attorney Arlene Zarembka.

Case Caption

Walsh v. Friendship Village of South County, No. 4:18-cv-1222 (E.D. Mo.); No. 19-1395 (8th Cir.)

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