Lambda Legal to File Lawsuit on Behalf of Lesbian Homeowners in Federal Court Against Self-Described 'America's #1 Home Loan Lender'
(New York, May 24, 2007) -- Today, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York federal court on behalf of a same-sex couple after the self described "America's #1 home loan lender" refused to add one partner to the other's existing mortgage, and then threatened to foreclose on their home.
"Everyone from kids to creditors knows what it means when two people say they are married," said David S. Buckel, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal and attorney on the case. "If these two women had been able to marry in New York, this never would have happened. Instead, they were told they had 30 days to come up with almost $80,000 or else they were going to lose their home."
Adola DeWolf, 49, a teacher for juveniles in the justice system and Laura Watts 42, a college administrator, have been in a committed relationship since 2004. When they decided to move in together in 2005, Watts sold her house and moved into DeWolf's home outside of Rochester, NY. In an attempt to make sure both partners were protected in case of death, and to share the responsibility for the mortgage, they contacted DeWolf's mortgage company, Countrywide, to add Watts as a party responsible for the monthly payments. Countrywide provided instructions to the couple, including a requirement that Watts be added to the deed. After the couple followed the instructions to change the mortgage, Countrywide responded by stating that the couple had breached their agreement with the lender by changing the deed and stated that the lender did not recognize domestic partners as family. Countrywide then told the couple that they would foreclose on the house if the $80,000 balance on the mortgage were not paid in 30 days.
"We fell in love and made a commitment for life. The next step was to share the responsibility for home ownership, but Countrywide said our relationship didn't count and then threatened to take away our home," said Watts.
"We spent weeks constantly scrambling to make sure that we didn't lose our home, all the time knowing that if we'd been married, it would have been so simple," said DeWolf.
One of the claims in this case is under the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which requires that creditors not discriminate against applicants based on marital status.
This week Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell officially introduced Governor Spitzer's bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.
The case is DeWolf and Watts v. Countrywide.
David S. Buckel, Director of Lambda Legal's Marriage Project is attorney on the case along with cooperating attorneys Beau W. Buffier, James L. Garrity Jr. and David M. Sollors of Shearman & Sterling LLP.
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