News (USA)

Mass. AG backing gay couple in lawsuit against Catholic Church

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a court brief Thursday in support of a married, same-sex couple who sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester for allegedly refusing to sell them a Northbridge mansion because church officials were concerned they would host gay weddings at the site.

Martha Coakley
Martha Coakley

James Fairbanks and Alain Beret filed their lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court in 2012. They allege that in the middle of negotiations to buy Oakhurst, a former retreat center affiliated with the diocese, church officials suddenly pulled out.

They say they inadvertently received an email from the chancellor of the diocese to the church’s broker saying the reason was the “potentiality of gay marriages” at the facility.

“Our laws provide important protections for religious organizations and people of faith,” Coakley said in a written statement Thursday. “These laws also strike a balance between religious freedoms and the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination.”

The diocese has said it stopped negotiations over concerns about whether the buyers could finance the purchase and that email refers only to the possibility of gay weddings being held at the site, not the couple’s sexual orientation, which they said never came up during negotiations.

Article continues below

The diocese also has argued that the state’s anti-discrimination laws do not apply to its conduct in this case, citing legal exemptions and constitutional protections.

Coakley argues that the state’s anti-discrimination law applies to the public, commercial sale of real property by the diocese. She says the diocese’s religious rights aren’t burdened by the sale of the property to the plaintiffs.

“In this case, we believe that this family was unfairly discriminated against by the diocese when it refused to sell them property based on their sexual orientation,” she added.

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

U.S. Senate confirms first out lesbian to federal bench in Michigan

Previous article

Relatives speak out about lesbian couple found murdered in Texas

Next article