A gay couple is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester over claims it refused to sell them a mansion because of fears they would use it to host gay weddings.
James Fairbanks, 57, and Alain Beret, 59, filed their discrimination suit on Monday in Worcester Superior Court.
The couple allege that they were in negotiations to buy Oakhurst, a former retreat center in Northbridge, Massachusetts, when 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 because of the ‘potentiality of gay marriages’ at the home.
The married business partners fell in love with the property, set in 26 acres of land after a two-year-long hunt for a site from which to launch their latest project – an inn where weddings and other big events would be hosted.
At no point, they claim, did they indicate that it would be specifically for gay weddings.
A former retreat center, the property had been on the market for some time, boston.com reported.
They reached a preliminary agreement to buy Oakhurst for $1 million and offered $550,000 owing to $500,000 worth of repair needing to be done.
But ‘With lightning speed,’ Beret said, the church pulled out of the deal.
‘It was not the kind of thing you would expect after having negotiated for a month, and everything having gone rather well.’
Outraged, the couple filed their suit on Monday, on the basis of sexual orientation in the course of a real estate negotiation, violating state law.
‘I have lived quietly in the mainstream for nearly 60 years, and I expected to continue that,’ Beret said.
‘But I will not continue that at the expense of my dignity.’
The church’s broker claimed Fairbanks and Beret had mentioned hosting same-sex weddings at the property in her presence, something with Beret denies, calling it an ‘outright fabrication’.
‘We never would have had a discussion about “gay wedding this” or “gay wedding that,”‘ he said, adding that their intention was to accommodate all types of weddings.
Chancellor Thomas Sullivan said the church dropped out of negotiations because of concerns about Fairbanks’ and Beret’s ability to finance the purchase.
He claimed to up unaware that the men were gay, and that his e-mail was taken out of context.
As a matter of policy, he added, the church does not sell properties where Masses have been held to people who plan to host same-sex weddings, boston.com reported.
‘We wouldn’t sell our churches and our properties to any of a number of things that would reflect badly on the church,’ he said.
‘These buildings are sacred to the memory of Catholics.’