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Angela Giampolo of Giampolo Law. Angela Giampolo of Giampolo Law.

In 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that marriage equality was the law of the land, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community celebrated, but only briefly. Marriage is only one step in a lifelong partnership between two people, and many within the LGBTQ community have found that even though they are married, they are not treated the same as a heterosexual couple would be. The discrimination becomes more pronounced as LGBTQ people age, and often LGBTQ seniors have difficulty accessing the same assistance and opportunities, like senior living accommodations, available to heterosexual seniors. In a recent instance, a lesbian couple from St. Louis, Missouri applied to a senior living community in 2016 and found out shortly thereafter that their admission was denied because the community had a “long-standing policy” that precluded a lesbian couple from cohabitating.

Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, applied to the senior living community, Friendship Village, in Sunset Hills, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. They were impressed and immediately put $2,000 down to secure a spot in a shared accommodation. Friendship Village provided the option of incrementally increased care should one of them become ill. If one of them were moved to the assisted living section of the community, or even the nursing home on Friendship Village’s 52-acre property, Walsh and Nance would still be able to have dinner together and spend time with each other. The ability to be together through the remaining years of their lives was of significant importance to the couple. At that time, neither asked whether or not two married women cohabitating was a problem. Walsh told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that when she asked an employee at another retirement community the wives toured if there would be any issues with their relationship, the employee seemed surprised that there might be an issue and so Walsh didn’t ask the question again. “I thought, ‘Well, this has all been resolved with the Marriage Act, isn’t this great.’ So when we visited Friendship Village on several occasions, I never asked the question.”

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