Gay retirement complex faces continuing court battle

BY admin

November 11 2003 1:00 AM ET

The fight over a subdivision in Pecos, N.M., aimed at retirement-age gay and lesbian adults is knocking on the door of New Mexico's court of appeals. The Los Ruederos Neighborhood Association petitioned the appellate court last week to take its case and throw out San Miguel County's approval of the Birds of a Feather subdivision. The neighborhood association claims the subdivision would violate the federal Fair Housing Act. It says the subdivision's Web site indicates a preference that children not live in the community and that men and boys are welcome only to visit. Dolores Vigil, a Pecos native and member of the association, said she fears Birds of a Feather would clash with her culture of family and the Catholic faith. "We've stayed out of this issue as much as we could because we didn't want to
be accused of being biased or prejudiced.... But why should this only be for them? Why can't children have an opportunity to live there?" she asked.

Bonnie McGowan, a lesbian and retired investment banker from Minnesota, is behind the idea for the 157-acre subdivision. She said she has faced prejudice all her life and was shocked when opponents turned to accusations that she wished to exclude anyone from Birds of a Feather. "That's never been the case. I've always been open to everyone--gays and straights--and while, yes, it's true, I've said there won't be any facilities for children, do [opponents] think that the people who may live here don't have children? They're mothers and grandmothers," she said. Any statements suggesting that children and men were welcome only to visit have been taken off the Birds of a Feather Web site, she said.

The neighborhood association had filed a lawsuit in state district court to stop the subdivision. But Judge Eugenio Mathis ruled last month that the development could move forward--even though he disagreed with the county's decision to approve the subdivision. Vigil and McGowan both say the dispute boils down to whether the Pecos area should open its arms to more development. Vigil said she doesn't want Pecos to become another version of the nearby city Santa Fe, with bright lights, high prices, and higher taxes.

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