Worcester Diocese to be sued over housing discrimination

Residential real estate transactions can be a complex maze of rules, regulations and paperwork. Any number of things can go wrong from title declarations to land use and zoning issues when it comes to commercial real estate. And there are always price negotiations and inspections to deal with. But what went wrong for two men is they claim they were discriminated against by the Worcester Roman Catholic Diocese because they are gay. The two men were in negotiations with the Diocese over the purchase of a Northbridge mansion that sits on 26 acres and they intend to sue the Diocese for housing discrimination in the matter.

The negotiations abruptly ended, but the two parties claim for different reasons. The Diocese stated the negotiations stopped because of the low purchase amount offered by the two men. The asking price was $1.25 million and the two offered $500,000 for the property due to its current “rough condition.” The two men thought the negotiations would continue back and forth like many real estate transactions do but the owners simply walked away from the table.

The potential buyers claim that the owners were told they were a married gay couple and were planning on hosting gay wedding celebrations at the mansion, which was formerly a religious retreat. The mansion, known as Oakhurst, has 44 rooms and much history since it was built in the 1800s. The two men claim they have never once discussed holding gay marriages at the mansion either between themselves or with anyone else. The two entrepreneurs, who have transformed other old buildings, want to renovate the property to make it into an inn and banquet facility.

Last week, the two men announced at a news conference they intend to sue the Worcester Dioceses under the state’s housing laws which prohibit discrimination based on the sexual orientation of the potential buyers or renters. The Diocese Chancellor Monsignor stated the diocese did not know the buyers were gay and the negotiations ended due to their low offer. He also said that the church would not sell its properties to “any number of things” that it feels would “reflect badly on the church.” The two potential buyers are seeking undisclosed damages in their lawsuit.

Source: NECN, “Gay couple sues Worcester Diocese over failed mansion sale,” Greg Wayland, Sept. 10, 2012

Our Worcester law firm handles a variety of residential and commercial real estate issues, including the sale and purchase of real estate and land use and zoning issues.