An upstate New York couple filed a discrimination lawsuit Thursday claiming they were kicked out of the wellness program at a health care center because they are lesbians.
Louise Bizzari and Barbara Hackett also allege they were called "faggots" by a center official who "dismissed" them as members of the Charles T. Sitrin Health Care Center, a not-for-profit center near Utica in New Hartford, according to a complaint filed in state supreme court.
The lawsuit was filed on the women's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, which charged that the Sitrin Center discriminated against Bizzari and Hackett in violation of state law. "It is shameful that a business that is supposedly committed to improving people's health would deny this couple access solely because they are lesbians," said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
Rosemary Bonacci, a Sitrin spokeswoman, issued a statement saying the facility did not discriminate against the women.
"Ms. Bizzari was dismissed from our wellness program solely based on her inappropriate conduct in the facility, and her sexual orientation was not a factor in this decision," Bonacci said.
According to the complaint, the clinical rehabilitation services director refused to enroll Bizzari in any of Sitrin's aquatic therapy classes when Warmuth learned that Bizzari's insurance was provided through her domestic partner of 20 years, Hackett. Both women are registered nurses.
A few months later, after learning that the women had enrolled in another Sitrin program that allows use of the pool, they were dismissed from the center's programs, the complaint said.
Bizzari, 55, said Wednesday use of the rehabilitation pool was critical to her health. She faces possible amputation of her left leg as a result of medical complications. "This is a life-threatening situation for me," said Bizzari, who hopes for temporary permission to use the facility while the lawsuit is pending. (AP)