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Lesbian Accuses Niles Senior Center Of Allowing Harassment

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An LGBT civil rights organization has filed what it considers to be a groundbreaking lawsuit against a senior living facility, alleging it failed to protect a lesbian from harassment by other residents.

Lambda Legal senior attorney Karen Loewy said, a couple months after Marsha Wetzel moved in to Glen Saint Andrew Living Community in Niles, the 68-year-old woman became the target of gay slurs and worse from other residents.

"She has been taunted about her relationship with Judy [her partner of 30 years] and their son, she has been spit on, she has been threatened with bodily harm, she has been bullied, and she has been intimidated. She has also been physically injured by other residents ," Loewy said.


In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court , Wetzel claims Glen Saint Andrew did nothing to violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act by doing nothing to stop the "severe and pervasive" discrimination and harassment against Wetzel.

The lawsuit further alleges the facility retaliated against Wetzel when she complained, by accusing her of lying and banning her from public spaces in the facility.

Loewy said the lawsuit is the first she's aware of that accuses a residential facility of not protecting a gay person from harassment by other residents.

"This is a really great opportunity for the court to send a message to facilities across the country that both federal and state non-discrimination laws apply to these senior housing facilities," she said.

Loewy said such harassment could be a growing problem for LGBT seniors.

"The numbers of LGBT seniors accessing senior facilities is only going to increase. Recent estimates suggest that by 2030, there will be over 3 million LGBT adults over the age of 65 in America," she said.

The suit seeks training for employees of the facility and unspecified damages.

Glen Saint Andrew declined comment on the lawsuit.


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