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Elderly lesbian back in court over senior living abuse case

Lambda Legal filed an appeal on behalf of Marsha Wetzel for allegations of discrimination and abuse because she is gay.
Photo credit:
Lambda Legal

In 2015, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News brought you the story of Marsha Wetzel, a senior living in a retirement community who claimed staff at the facility abused her both physically and verbally because she is gay.

The abuse began after she confided in residents and staff about her 30-year relationship with her partner who passed away, That death left Wetzel homeless giving her no other choice but to move into Glen St. Andrew.

She said the faculty failed to do anything after she reported residents were calling her a “f***ing dyke,” “f***ing faggot,” and “homosexual bitch.”

Rather than being met with compassion, she was allegedly marginalized further by staff who retaliated because of her complaints. 

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against Glen St. Andrew Living Community in Niles, IL., but a federal court dismissed that complaint. According to Lambda Legal the court did so, “without reference to the sex or sexual orientation claims, thereby broadening the question at stake to the assisted living facility’s general responsibility for protecting residents against resident-on-resident harassment and violence. “

Today Lambda Legal filed an appeal.

“When we filed this lawsuit in July of 2016, we were thinking of the thousands of LGBT seniors, just like Marsha, who were experiencing discrimination in senior housing or who lived in fear of being their true selves, but this case is now much bigger than that,” said Karen Loewy, Senior Counsel and Seniors Program Strategist for Lambda Legal. “In today’s arguments, Glen Saint Andrew argued that they have zero obligation to keep any of their residents safe from discriminatory harassment. Though it is particularly appalling to hear that argument from an entity that specializes in caring for seniors, the rights of all tenants to hold their landlords accountable when they are denied equal housing opportunity is at stake here.”

Wetzel is staying strong throughout the ordeal and has become an advocate for elderly LGBT rights.

“I am not giving up,” said Marsha Wetzel. “I felt completely scared and helpless when the people in charge at Glen Saint Andrew would not protect me, but the idea that they don’t think they have to protect anyone is shocking. The elderly deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe no matter who they are or who they loved and I’m going to fight for us.”

You can watch Wetzel tell her story below.