Gay Couple Encounters Housing Discrimination

By: Carrie Cline Email
By: Carrie Cline Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Race, sex, age, disability -- it's common knowledge that if you discriminate based on those things, you could face a tough legal battle no matter where you live in the United States.

But what if you're gay?

That still depends on where you live. It's a lesson learned the hard way by one woman who's speaking out after what she calls a hurtful decision.

"I think it's discrimination," Rayetta Darby said.

Darby is gay. She and her partner, Erika Johnson, have been together for two years. They were looking forward to sharing an apartment together when they hit an unexpected roadblock with their potential landlord.

"I said, 'Is it the gay thing?' and I got a response that, 'Yeah, I guess I have a problem with that,' " Darby said.

We talked to the landlord in question, and he adamantly denied that claim. He said the reason he didn’t rent to Darby and Johnson had nothing to do with them being gay. But, while investigating that issue, we learned that West Virginia has no law preventing a landlord from turning down a potential tenant simply because he or she is gay.

In fact, 30 states have no such law, including Ohio and Kentucky.

"It's terrible. It’s terrible we even need such a law," said Bill Dotson, executive director of Huntington Housing Authority.

The Federal Fair Housing Act also has no protection for those who are gay. Dotson says while there are no laws preventing discrimination, it's absolutely the wrong thing to do.

"You can only prevent people from renting if they have a bad payment history or if they they're bad neighbors or don’t take care of their property," Dotson said. "If a landlord refuses to rent to them for any reason other than those, it's heavily frowned upon."

But, the fact that there’s no law preventing such behavior in West Virginia is deeply disturbing to Darby.

"It hurts. It hurts," she said.

While there's no state protection for discrimination based on sexual orientation in West Virginia, Charleston does have protection within the city limits.

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