Mass. gay couple sues church over nixed house sale

Sep 10, 2012, 8:26 PM

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) – A gay couple from Massachusetts sued a Roman Catholic diocese Monday for allegedly refusing to sell them a mansion because church officials were concerned they would host gay weddings there.

James Fairbanks, 59, and Alain Beret, 57, filed suit in Worcester Superior Court for loss of civil rights and dignity and for emotional distress.

The married couple from Sutton planned to buy Oakhurst, a former Catholic retreat center in Northbridge, and restore it as a place they could live and host a special events business.

But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester ended negotiations in June, and the couple alleged they learned why in an email they inadvertently received in which diocesan Chancellor Thomas Sullivan cited concern “about the potentiality of gay marriages there.”

The couple’s attorney, Sergio Carvajal, said it’s obvious his clients were discriminated against because they’re gay.

“It is wrong and it is illegal,” he said.

But James G. Reardon Jr., an attorney for the diocese, said the diocese stopped negotiations over concerns about whether the buyers could finance the purchase. The email refers only to the possibility of gay weddings being held at the site, not the couple’s sexual orientation, which Reardon said never came up during negotiations.

“It wasn’t a case of discriminating against gay people. We didn’t even know they were gay,” Reardon said.

Reardon said the buyers’ initial financing fell through, and they proposed carving out a 5-acre portion of the property for purchase. But that “made no economic sense to us,” Reardon said, citing various associated costs, including surveying and plot-planning.

“That’s why the deal fell through,” he said.

The Oakhurst center is a 30-room mansion on 26 acres. It was built in 1890 by the descendant of a family that founded a prosperous local textile machine business.

According to the lawsuit, Fairbanks and Beret had converted another property into a successful special events facility and wanted to do it again.

The property was listed at $1.45 million, and the diocese accepted the couples’ offer to buy it at $1 million, Carvajal said. But after an inspection revealed costly repairs were needed, they made a revised offer of $550,000. The diocese then ended negotiations in June.

The lawsuit charges that a June 8 email Sullivan sent to his real estate agent around that time proves the church discriminated against the couple.

“I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop,” the email read. “Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we aren’t interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”

Carvajal said “the email speaks for itself,” and that he doesn’t buy that the diocese didn’t know his clients were gay.

The diocese has a policy that forbids selling church buildings once used for worship for a purpose that’s against church teachings, such as gay marriage. Carvajal said such a policy would be illegal in this case.

“They would basically be binding future people to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.

Church officials declined comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, and Reardon did not comment on the policy.

Carvajal also denied that financing was ever a problem.

“At all times, my clients were qualified to buy this property,” he said,

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

In this combination of photos from video provided by ESPN, pitcher Kaiden Shelton (29), of Pearland...
Associated Press

Beaned Little League batter rises to console upset pitcher

WACO, Texas (AP) — A Little League batter rose from a beaning to console the upset pitcher in a dramatic scene at a Little League regional tournament game Tuesday in Waco, Texas. The incident happened during a Little League Southwest Regional Playoff final. Righthander Kaiden Shelton of Pearland, Texas, was facing batter Isaiah Jarvis of […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Gas prices are displayed at a Sunoco gas station along the Ohio Turnpike near Youngstown, Oh...
Associated Press

US inflation will likely stay high even as gas prices fall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans may finally be catching a break from relentlessly surging prices — if just a slight one — even as inflation is expected to remain painfully high for months. Thanks largely to falling gas prices, the government’s inflation report for July, to be released Wednesday morning, is expected to show that prices […]
20 hours ago
A bicyclist rides past a barn with political banner on it as the sun rises on primary election day,...
Associated Press

Republicans to pick Senate candidate to challenge Blumenthal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former state legislator and a GOP fundraiser who received a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump were locked Tuesday in a tight primary contest for U.S. Senate that could signal where the state Republican party is headed politically after years of backing moderates. The race pits former state House […]
20 hours ago
FILE - A man holds a sign urging increased access to the monkeypox vaccine during a protest in San ...
Associated Press

US will stretch monkeypox vaccine supply with smaller doses

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials on Tuesday authorized a plan to stretch the nation’s limited supply of monkeypox vaccine by giving people just one-fifth the usual dose, citing research suggesting that the reduced amount is about as effective. The so-called dose-sparing approach also calls for administering the Jynneos vaccine with an injection just under […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., speaks at a Memorial Day observance event on May 30, 20...
Associated Press

WA GOP House member who voted to impeach Trump concedes

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of two Republican members of Washington’s congressional delegation who voted to impeach Donald Trump, has conceded her reelection bid after being overtaken in late vote tallies by a GOP challenger endorsed by the former president. Trump had targeted the six-term incumbent and endorsed Joe Kent, a […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Vermont state Sen. Becca Balint, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run for V...
Associated Press

Balint wins Vermont’s Democratic primary for US House

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The leader of Vermont’s state Senate, Becca Balint, won the Democratic Party primary on Tuesday for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning she could become the first woman and the first openly gay person to represent the state in Congress. In deep-blue Vermont, it’s likely the Democratic […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Mass. gay couple sues church over nixed house sale