Disabled Couple Sues To Live Together In Public Housing

546081_10151531395409449_1249715613_nI was interviewed recently on an interesting case out of New York where Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels are suing to be able to live together in public housing. The problem is that they are mentally disabled and the state says that it cannot accommodate mentally disabled married couples. It is a case that pits constitutional rights for married couples (as well as disability protections) against a state’s discretionary decisions on budgetary and facilities management.

Forziano and Samuels spend each day together but then have to go to separate group homes. Their parents have been trying to get the state to reconsider its policy. However, they say that officials maintain that their qualification for a group home by definition means that they cannot live as married people.

As the nation debate same-sex marriage, the case pushes that question into a new uncharted area.

Catholic Health Systems runs the Maryhaven Center of Hope but declined a statement. Samuels lives in a women only facility.

David Arntsen, representing the Independent Group Home Living program where Forziano lives, says that his client doesn’t have facilities for married residents.

Forziano, 30, is classified in the mild to moderate range of intellectual functioning and has an IQ score between 50 and 58. Samuels, 36, is in the moderate range of intellectual functioning, with an IQ score between 50 and 44. Another below 70 is entitled to disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

In my view, this is a tough case. As a policy matter, I think it should be allowed with facilities accommodating married couples. However, as a legal matter, the state can argue that there is a rational basis that policy and that the state cannot accommodate such arrangements. What I do not agree with is that disability means that the couple cannot by definition live as a married couple. On that level, this appears discriminatory. What is left is the question of whether the discrimination can be justified on the basis for logistical and financial costs. Should the state be required to contract for or build facilities for married disabled couples?

Source: Montreal Gazette

27 thoughts on “Disabled Couple Sues To Live Together In Public Housing”

  1. Why do we have “public housing”? Why cant we just provide mobile homes instead of bricks and mortor? Then when the mobile home wears out, junk it. Its cheaper. Lots of folks just above the level of public housing live in trailer parks. Give this couple a trailer in Rosa Parks Trailer Park.

  2. Sure, accommodate them. It seems that the state wants to put a limit on the normative behaviors that it will subsidize among the mentally challenged, protected class. I doubt that they are the only similarly situated clients the state deals with.

  3. The Independent Group Home Living program needs to expand its program to include disabled married couples. On their website, they say that each residence is home for between 3 and 12. Simple solution is to make one residence accommodate married couples. It seems to me that somebody is just dragging their feet and not wanting to work this out. Surely this couple could be accommodated if the providers had the mind and will to work it out and expand their program.

  4. Andy, I agree with your wife. They care for others so why not a married couple.

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