Originally published on Advocate.com October 01 2003 12:00 AM ET
A settlement has been reached in an antigay housing discrimination case in Florida involving a gay male couple who were refused an apartment because of their sexual orientation. The agreement requires Royal Colonial Apartments in Boca Raton to post a nondiscrimination statement in their office and on housing application forms. The statement makes it clear that Royal Colonial will not discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals or couples. In addition to the nondiscrimination policy, the housing complex will pay $75,000 in damages and legal fees, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay advocacy group that represented the couple.
"Housing discrimination against gay people is a widespread problem that often goes unaddressed," said Greg Nevins, senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Atlanta office. "This case shows that antigay discrimination won't be tolerated. In places where gay people have protection from discrimination, like Palm Beach County, it is important to enforce those laws."
Before showing Fred Sternbach several units at Royal Colonial, the property manager, Peggy Watson, asked him to fill out a form that, among other questions, asked how many people would be living in the
apartment and what their relationship to Sternbach was. Sternbach wrote that he would live with his partner. He was shown a number of available units and expressed interest in one of them. An hour after he left, Watson called him to ask what "partner" meant and whether it was a wife or fiance. When Sternbach said it was his partner of 16 years, Stephen Miller, Watson said that Royal Colonial would not be able to accommodate him because it rents only to couples who are married.
A Palm Beach County law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. In Florida four other counties and eight cities have similar ordinances prohibiting antigay discrimination in housing. Nationwide, more than 145 cities or counties have such laws.