Landlords Must Protect LGBTQ Tenants from Harassment, Says Fed Court

Thanks to a new federal court ruling, housing discrimination laws just got that much stronger for LGBTQ tenants. Moving forward, landlords will have an obligation to safeguard their queer renters from fellow tenants who may target them for their sexual orientation or gender identity, reports The Advocate.

Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit Court wrote in her decision, “Not only does [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 based on a protected status, yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop the harassment.”

The lawsuit was brought on by Marsha Wetzel, a lesbian who moved into a retirement community in Illinois following the death of her longtime partner, Judith. Wetzel did not receive a warm welcome from her neighbors, who repeatedly physically and verbally harassed her because she is a lesbian.

Over times, Wetzel says she was spat on, taunted with homophobic slurs, and even had fellow residents intentionally collide into her with their electronic scooters, causing bruising and, in one incident where she was knocked over, a black eye. The other tenants made it clear that she was not welcome in the communal space such as the dining hall.

She reported each incident to the management at the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, but no one in a position of power did anything to intervene. One manager dismissed her claims as lies and allegedly told her “Judy died to get away from you.”

In court, lawyers for Glen St Andrew maintained that the treatment Wetzel received never rose about the usual “squabbles” from “crotchety senior residents.”

Fortunately, the three presiding judges unanimously disagreed, calling the harassment “severe and pervasive.” Judge Wood pointed at how this case compared to an employment discrimination case her court heard the previous year, and that the Fair Housing Act should carry “equal force.”

The judges were also severely unimpressed that all of the steps the landlords took were in retaliation against Wetzel – not to help her. Management explicitly banned from her some common spaces to cut down on the trouble, rather than punishing or even evicting Wetzel’s harassers.

Although Wetzel lives in a facility for seniors, the judges interpreted the case in such a way that it should apply to landlords of all sorts. They will bear a reasonable amount of responsibility to intervene if they become aware of homophobic behavior targeted at an LGBTQ resident. Housing discrimination doesn’t end when a landlord allows an LGBTQ person to move into a place of residence.

“[We] deserve to feel safe and to be treated with respect,” said Wetzel in a statement following her victory in court. “That’s not too much to ask. No one should have to endure what I endured because of who I am.”

As a result of her advocacy, other queer people won’t face that kind of bigotry – at least not without facing legal repercussions!

 

Photo credit: Thinkstock

39 comments

Dave f
Past Member 3 months ago

Thank you it makes sense.

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silja salonen
silja s4 months ago

with gratitude

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Chad A
Chad Anderson5 months ago

Thank you.

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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danii p
danii p5 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Diane E
Diane E5 months ago

Allow all people to have their human rights to privacy and support tenants against discrimination.

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Irene S
Irene S5 months ago

What a hard time Ms. Wetzel had to go through after the loss of her partner! I deeply hope, she is now able to spend her last years in dignity and peace. The outcome of her trial should be a matter of course. Alas, it isn´t. I admire the courage and steadiness of Ms. Wetzel and hope, it will silent all the mean, cruel and vicious self-proclaimed guardians of "morality" for a while.

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Karen H
Karen H5 months ago

Just Human, people discriminate because we are "different", because their religion tells them we're horrible sinners who are headed straight to Hell. They fear us for some reason, though we mean them no harm. My partner and I were together for 25 years and few people knew we were more than "just friends" until after her death. It was none of their business. Unfortunately, the GOP is working hard to take away our rights. Trump wants to put in judges at all levels who will allow people to claim their "religious rights" while denying those of us who aren't their version of "Christian" to follow our religious beliefs. We have to do more than gripe on social media and remind people to vote. We have to call and email and petition our misrepresentatives and let them know that we’re NOT happy with what's going on. Since inauguration day, my GOP misrepresentatives have gotten over 300 emails, countless petitions, and a LOT of phone calls from me. This week I'm calling Marco Rubio every day to tell him to vote NO for Kavanaugh.

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Winn A
Winn A5 months ago

We need more judges like Judge Diane Wood.

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