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Mentally-challenged couple fights for right to live together

A Riverhead newlywed couple happily won the right to build a love nest together, in spite of legal obstacles and a pending court battle. The couple, who met seven years ago and married this April, were finally able to welcome visitors into their new home run by an agency that manages group homes in eastern Long Island.

The disabled couple and their families filed a civil rights lawsuit this year, in which they petitioned their individual facilities to allow them to live together as a married couple. Although the couple was eventually able to make alternative living arrangements, the original court battle will continue. According to a legal advisor in the case, disabled adults should have the right to choose where they want to live, as well as the right to relocate. This case could pave the way for disabled individuals who are currently being denied places to live as married couples.

According to the civil case, one of the current living facilities refused to allow the couple to live there based on the lack of appropriate accommodations for married couples. In the other, the home contends that the couple is incapable of making the types of decisions married couples make on a day-to-day basis, including the mental capacity to have consensual sex.

The case is being closely scrutinized by legal experts who specialize in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Legal experts interpret the case as a test of that act, which says, in part, that a public entity shall make reasonable modifications in its endeavors to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability. Most of the group homes are non-profit facilities supported by the state and therefore receive Medicaid funding from their clients.

Discrimination based on disability can be one of the most tragic acts housing agencies or places of employment can take. If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of disability discrimination in any venue, it is wise to consult an expert in the field who is able to inform you of your rights and protect them.

HuffingtonPost.com, "Newlyweds With Disabilities Find Home To Share" Frank Eltman, Jul. 01, 2013

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