Seventh Circuit Court rules that housing discrimination based on sexual orientation is already prohibited under the Fair Housing Act
In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court has affirmed in Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act.
The panel determined that a previous ruling in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, which found that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination covers employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, applies equally to housing discrimination.
The Wetzel case, which was brought forward by Lambda Legal, centered on Marsha Wetzel, an openly lesbian elder who faced anti-gay harassment and assault by fellow residents in a residential facility for seniors.
Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community represents the first federal appellate ruling holding that sexual orientation discrimination is barred under the federal Fair Housing Act.
“Our elders should not have to worry about being themselves in their own homes – whether that’s in a private residence or an assisted living community. The ability to be safe, secure, and authentic at home is something that matters to all of us,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans.
“[This] decision affirms that much-needed protections from housing discrimination should be available to everyone, no matter who you love,” Davis said. “The Seventh Circuit has done the right thing by sending a message of fairness by upholding Ms. Wetzel’s right to equal and safe housing.”
The Court also rejected the argument that the facility could not be liable for actions of tenants. It ruled that there could be liability if the facility had knowledge of the harassment and was deliberately indifferent to it (and perhaps could be liable if the facility should have known about it and failed to take action within its power to correct it).
The court also held that Wetzel could proceed on her claim that the facility improperly retaliated against her after she complained about the harassment and assaults.
For more information on cases pending before state and federal courts, visit Freedom for All Americans’ litigation tracker at freedomforallamericans.org/litigation-tracker.