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Lambda Legal appeals case of lesbian harassed in senior housing facility
From a press release
2017-01-18

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Lambda Legal announced today that it will appeal its case on behalf of Marsha Wetzel, a lesbian woman harassed at her senior housing facility, after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Glen St. Andrew Living Community's request to dismiss the lawsuit. Lambda Legal, along with its co-counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Marsha, after the facility's administrators failed to protect her from harassment, discrimination and violence from other residents because of her sex and sexual orientation.

"Housing providers, like employers, can be held liable when they know about discriminatory abuse and harassment and fail to take steps to stop it. Glen St. Andrew is obligated to provide a safe living environment for the seniors who live there. We feel the District Court's dismissal of Marsha's lawsuit does not appropriately apply the law and we're confident that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will agree," said Karen Loewy, Senior Attorney and Seniors Program Strategist at Lambda Legal. "All seniors should feel safe in their homes. But Marsha Wetzel has been attacked at Glen St. Andrew simply because of who she is and whom she loved: a woman with whom she lived and nurtured a family for thirty years. This kind of discrimination and harassment is not only wrong, it's illegal."

Glen St. Andrew Living Community is a for-profit senior living facility in Niles, Illinois. Marsha moved into the facility after being evicted from the home she shared with her late partner by her partner's siblings. After she disclosed to other residents that she had been in a long-term relationship with a woman and that they had raised a child together, some residents began to harass her, physically attack her and call her names like "fucking dyke," "fucking faggot," and "homosexual bitch." Marsha reported these incidents of harassment and abuse to facility administrators, but rather than taking action to address the ongoing discrimination, the staff have marginalized and alienated Marsha and retaliated against her for complaining about the harassment. Marsha contacted the Lambda Legal Help Desk after the facility did not address her complaints.

"The attacks and abuse have been so severe that I'm afraid to leave my room. This isn't how anyone should live their golden years," said Marsha. "The love of my life was a woman and I don't want to hide that part of my life—that was the best part."

Lambda Legal's lawsuit brings claims under the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex.

The case is being litigated by Lambda Legal Counsel and Seniors Program Strategist, Karen Loewy, along with Staff Attorney and Health Care Fairness Strategist Kyle Palazzolo, and co-counsel John Litchfield, Ellen Wheeler, Will Lopez, and Tom Dreblow of Foley & Lardner LLP.

Read the Complaint: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/wetzel_il_20160727_complaint .

Learn more about LGBT Seniors and Housing: www.lambdalegal.org/blog/housing-rights-of-seniors .



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