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Boston-Area Diocese Sued for Anti-Gay Housing Discrimination

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Good morning! Here's something fun to welcome the day: the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Mass., is being sued by a gay couple with charges of housing discrimination. Hoping to convert the 19th-century mansion into their private home with dedicated event space, James Fairbanks and Alain Beret were in negotiations to buy Oakhurst, which was once a Catholic retreat. The property had been listed for $1.45M, the church accepted the couple's $1M offer, but, as the Huffington Post reports, pulled out of the deal after a routine home inspection proved troublesome—Fairbanks and Beret lowered their offer to $550K—and an initial round of financing fell through. It "made no economic sense to us," said an attorney for the diocese.

Dollar signs, schmollar signs, it seems: in an email to the real estate agent, the diocesan chancellor wrote the following:
"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." The email mentions gay weddings in general—and not Fairbanks' and Beret's own sexual orientation, so, you see, there's no bigotry here. It's not gay people the church takes issue with, it's people in general staging the reprisal of the shuttered Off-Broadway play My Big Gay Italian Wedding in real life. "It wasn't a case of discriminating against gay people," the church's attorney argues. "We didn't even know they were gay."

Questionable, sure, but it's all in keeping with the diocese's policy to keep its real estate holdings in line with Catholic tenets. Earlier this summer, Curbed Boston reported that the Boston archdiocese has overseen "[s]cores of sales over the past several years [that] come with deed restrictions that prohibit the use of the buildings or land for abortion clinics, abortion counseling services, stem cell research, euthanasia counseling, and birth control advice." Commonwealth Magazine has more on this "legally questionable real estate practice."

· Massachusetts Gay Couple Sues Church Over Nixed House Sale [HuffPo]