Mary Walsh, left, and Bev Nance pose at their 2009 wedding in Provincetown, MA. (Photo courtesy of Mary Walsh)

A Missouri continuing care retirement community accused of discriminating against a married lesbian couple by denying them admission has asked a federal court to dismiss the case in part because the women allegedly “failed to exhaust administrative remedies” before filing the lawsuit and because “sexual orientation is not a protected category under the [Fair Housing Act].”

As McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, Mary Walsh and Bev Nance filed their lawsuit against Friendship Village Sunset Hills in St. Louis in July. The two women have been married since 2009 and say they were denied a unit at the CCRC in July 2016 because they are a same-sex married couple.

In a U.S. District Court filing on Friday, Friendship Village said it prohibited Walsh and Nance from sharing the same unit at the complex “based on the faith-based nature of the organization and the religious convictions of its board members.” The CCRC’s cohabitation policy, according to the filing, “defines ‘marriage’ to mean ‘the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.’ ” The policy is still in effect, according to Friendship Village.

The community is not operated by a church entity, Friendship Village said in the filing, and the CCRC does not inquire about the religious beliefs of applicants seeking residency.

Walsh and Nance are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights; law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax; ACLU of Missouri and attorney Arlene Zarembka. A legal team spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that the team plans to file a response to Friendship Village’s motion on Oct. 5.

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