Lambda Legal Urges Court to Rule in LGBT Housing Discrimination Case

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June 16, 2016
Rachel (left) and Tonya Smith with their children.
Rachel (left) and Tonya Smith with their children.

A Colorado property owner refused to rent to a same-sex couple and their children because she worried their “uniqueness” would jeopardize her standing in the community, Lambda Legal told a federal court today.

Lambda Legal asked the judge to find that the owner violated both the federal Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when she refused to rent a Gold Hill, Colorado, housing unit to the couple, one of whom is transgender.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan says:

“The facts are indisputable: Deepika Avanti refused to rent to Tonya and Rachel Smith because they are a same-sex couple and Rachel is transgender. Discrimination based on what the neighbors might say is not just wrong, it is unlawful.

“In her emails, Ms. Avanti specifically cited Tonya and Rachel’s ‘uniqueness,’ ‘unique relationship’ and how renting to them might jeopardize her standing in the community in her decision not to rent to them.

“LGBT people are part of the fabric of America and members of every community. Discrimination against LGBT people simply cannot be justified based one’s discomfort, or the discomfort of others.”

Tonya says:

“We were so shocked by Deepika’s emails. She couldn’t have been clearer that who we are, that the nature of our relationship, made her uncomfortable and worried about what her neighbors might say. Well, that’s no excuse for discrimination, and we hope no one else has to go through what we went through.”

Tonya and Rachel Smith have been married for more than five years and have two children, ages six and two. In early 2015, Tonya and Rachel were looking to find a new home for their young family. In April, they located a two-bedroom townhouse in Gold Hill that seemed to meet all of their needs – affordable, lots of outdoor space where their children could play, and near a small, high-quality public school. After meeting the landlord, Deepika Avanti, and touring both that unit and a three-bedroom unit on the same property, Tonya and Rachel believed they had found their ideal home.

However, within hours, Avanti emailed Tonya and Rachel and informed them she would not be renting either unit to them, because she thought their “unique relationship” would become the focus of discussion in town and would harm her standing in the community. She added that she had kept a low profile for 30 years, but that would no longer be possible if she rented to them due to Tonya and Rachel’s “uniqueness.”

In the Motion for Summary Judgment submitted today to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Lambda Legal cited the series of emails Avanti sent Tonya and Rachel as clear evidence that Avanti engaged in discrimination on the basis of sex and familial status and on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status.