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Judge: Landlord Violated Housing Act In Denial Of LGBT Couple

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - In what is believed to be a first, a court has ruled in favor of an LGBT couple under the Fair Housing Act. Denver U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore found that a landlord discriminated against a same sex female couple that wanted to rent an apartment.

Tonya Smith was born a woman. Rachel was born a man and became a transgender woman. They have two children and have been married for several years.

Tonya and Rachel Smith
Tonya and Rachel Smith (credit: CBS)

"When it's in your head that people might potentially think differently of you because of the way you live your life you always wonder a little bit," Tonya told CBS4.

Gold Hill
Gold Hill (credit: CBS)

They found an apartment on Craigslist they thought would be perfect. It's located in the rustic town of Gold Hill high in the foothills above Boulder.

Gold Hill
Gold Hill (credit: CBS)

"Down here in the city you're around everybody. It's hard to be part of an active community," Rachel said.

But after they met the landlord at the apartment they got an email from her stating the following:

"Your unique relationship would become the town focus, in small towns everyone talks and gossips."

(credit: CBS)

Rachel told CBS4's Rick Sallinger "I feel she decided not to rent to us because we are an LGBT couple."

They sued in federal court, claiming the landlord was in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Colorado anti-discrimination laws by refusing to rent to them on the basis of their "uniqueness."

"I think she was worried it would bring negative attention her way," Rachel said.

Tonya And Rachel Smith
Tonya and Rachel Smith (credit: CBS)

The landlord denied the allegations, saying she declined to rent because noise from the couple's children might be disruptive. The judge ruled in the Smiths' favor.

Tonya is optimistic their case will help others.

"I hope it can lead to stronger protection for LGBT people," she said.

Damages are yet to be determined. The landlord, Deepika Avanti, told Sallinger she will not comment until the case is totally concluded.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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