A married lesbian couple has filed a lawsuit against a Missouri senior living community, in which they claim they were denied housing because of their sexual orientation.

Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, of Shrewsbury, Mo., said they were rejected from the Friendship Village senior living community in 2016 because their relationship violated the community's “long standing” cohabitation policy.

The couple, who have been together for nearly four decades, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday that they were “stunned” when their application was denied after chatting extensively with the staff and paying a $2,000 deposit.

ADVERTISEMENT

The policy used to reject them defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible,” the lawsuit states. 

The couple claims Friendship Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Rights Act by denying them occupancy.

FV Services, the company that manages Friendship Village, said in a statement to The Post-Dispatch that they would not provide comment until they have reviewed the lawsuit. 

“We have just been made aware of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen and have not had an opportunity to review. This matter will be discussed with legal counsel and (we) have no further comment at this time,” the company said in a statement.

Anders Walkers, a constitutional law professor at St. Louis University, said that Friendship Village might be able to defend its decision because it's a private company.

“My gut instinct is they’re probably out of luck,” he said of the couple, according to the Post-Dispatch. “When a private body doesn’t want to rent a room to you, for them, that’s freedom of association. They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”

Julie Wilensky, a lawyer for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that Walsh and Nance were protected under federal law.

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only — because they were married to each other rather than to men. This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” Wilensky said in a news release.  “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

The lawsuit comes a month after the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage based on religious grounds.