Melanie Nathan, January 14, 2016
Lambda Legal today filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a Boulder County property owner who violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to rent a housing unit she owns in Gold Hill, Colorado, to a same-sex couple, one of whom is transgender, and their children because she worried their “uniqueness” would jeopardize her standing in the community.
“Worrying about what the neighbors will say is no excuse for discrimination,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said. “Tonya and Rachel Smith are loving spouses and parents whose ideal home was denied to them because they are a same-sex couple with kids and Rachel is transgender. That’s not just wrong, it is unlawful. By refusing to rent to Tonya and Rachel because of their ‘uniqueness,’ Deepika Avanti is engaging in discrimination in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.”
Tonya and Rachel Smith are a loving, committed same-sex couple living in Colorado. They have been married for more than five years and have two children, ages six and two. Rachel is also transgender. In early 2015, Tonya and Rachel were looking to find a new home for their young family. In April, they located a two-bedroom duplex in the community of Gold Hill, Colorado, that seemed to meet all of their needs – affordable, lots of outdoor space where their children could play, and near a small, high quality public school. After meeting the landlord, Deepika Avanti, and touring both that unit and a three-bedroom unit on the same property, Tonya and Rachel believed they had located their ideal house.”
However, within hours, Avanti emailed Tonya and Rachel and informed them she would not be renting either unit to them, because she thought their “unique relationship” would become the focus of discussion in town and would harm her position in the community. She added that she had kept a low profile for 30 years, but that would no longer be possible if she rented to them due to Tonya and Rachel’s “uniqueness.”