Marsha Wetzel, an elderly lesbian woman, has brought the Glen St Andrew Living Community in Illinois to court claiming the retirement home failed to protect her from homophobic residents.
According to her lawsuit, Wetzel had moved to the retirement home after being evicted from the house she had shared with her partner of 30 years when her deceased partner’s family took possession. Weltz, who is disabled by severe arthritis, was then found a place in the retirement home by a social worker.
At first, things seemed to be going well, until the residents of Glen St Andrew discovered she was a lesbian. That was when the insults and attacks began. Weltz was called homophobic slurs, given cruel nicknames, spat at, knocked over on her walker and physically attacked.
When Weltz complained to staff at the retirement home, she claims they not only failed to take her claims seriously, but began to retaliate against her for continuously complaining, calling her a troublemaker and liar and at one point refusing to clean her room. Weltz said it got so bad that when she was attacked by an unknown assailant from behind and given a black eye, she didn’t report it to staff as she felt they just wouldn’t believe her.
After over a year of cruel treatment, the elderly lesbian contacted the helpline of Lambda Legal – the LGBT+ rights organisation, who agreed to take her case. According to the appeals court, landlords must protect tenants from discriminatory harassment under fair housing laws, meaning the retirement home bears responsibility for her treatment.
Commenting on the case, the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) said: “Both the perpetrators and victims come from a generation when rights for gays and lesbians were not accepted, making perpetrators bolder and victims unaware of or afraid to assert their current rights.”
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