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Group Homes’ Decision To Bar Newlyweds From Cohabiting Upheld


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A federal judge has thrown out a discrimination claim from a married couple with intellectual disabilities who were denied the opportunity to live together in the same group home.

Paul Forziano, 31, and Hava Samuels, 36, sued the administrators of their group homes last year alleging disability discrimination after they were told that they could not live together following their April 2013 wedding.

Before marrying, Forziano and Samuels lived in separate group homes in Manorville, N.Y. The couple and their parents claimed that requests for the pair to live together as a married couple were denied by administrators of the group homes who indicated that such an arrangement would be “unprecedented,” “impossible” and “fraught with difficulties.”

Forziano and Samuels — whose residential and day services are funded through New York’s Medicaid waiver program — argued that denying them the opportunity to live together violated their rights.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler, however, dismissed the claim, ruling late last month that Forziano and Samuels did not prove they were discriminated against based on their disabilities.

“Such alleged discrimination is based not on Paul and Hava’s disabilities, but rather on their status as a married couple,” Wexler wrote in his ruling.

Since the suit was filed, Forziano and Samuels were able to find a joint living situation at a group home operated by a different provider where they remain currently. Nonetheless, the families said in court papers that they proceeded with the suit in order to ensure that the couple can continue cohabiting should they need an alternate placement in the future.

Attorneys for Forziano and Samuels have already filed paperwork to appeal the case.

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Comments (17 Responses)

  1. Barbara says:

    Time for an appeal!

  2. Michael K. De Rosa says:

    As a disability advocate, this does present the question: Are there a set of different parameters for those with disabilities to live by, and if so why?

  3. Elise says:

    The idea that this type of arrangement would be “unprecedented” is ridiculous. I have have been working the the disability field in NY for nearly 20 years and I can think of many married couples who were allowed to cohabitate in an agency-run residential setting. If nothing else, this is a backward agency that needs a lesson in the true meaning of inclusion.

  4. Susan says:

    As a parent of a child with a disability, I am not sure I understand where the discrimination is. Group homes are typically set up with “single” occupant rooms or “roommate” scenarios. I could understand being discriminated against if they were applying for a room in a home that clearly is set up for married couples. Group homes really have no say in someone’s relationship status, except when it comes to the “rules” established for governing the home. Am I missing something here?

  5. KAR says:

    Why do the couple and caregivers use community based resources for PWDs?
    Use the community resources to help them live independently!

  6. Lisal says:

    I assume no married couples are allowed to live in group homes BUT a “different provider” is allowing this in a group home housing 8 other men. So they weren’t discriminated against because they are the protected class of “disabled,” but they were discriminated against because they are married.

  7. Sandy says:

    This is a disgusting act of discrimination by the administrators of the group home and Judge Wexler. To say that Wexler’s decision is based on this couple’s “status as a married couple” is preposterous…if they are in a long-term relationship and love each other, they should be allowed to live together just like people who don’t have intellectual disabilities, especially if the parents are in support of it. The group home’s response that this would be “unprecedented,” “impossible” and “fraught with difficulties” shows a complete lack of flexibility and concern for individualized care on the part of the administration. None of those are reasons to deny two people their rights to freedom of choice. Isn’t that what OPWDD is supposedly moving towards?

  8. Donna L says:

    As a residential provider, I can tell you that this provider should hang it’s head in shame. If they find this situation “impossible” to serve, it calls their overall competencey as a provider into question.

  9. Karen says:

    As a provider of services and an advocate, I can see the group homes side of this situation. Some group homes are men only or female only. Many group homes have different rules. I do not believe this was discrimination, due to their disability. I also think that the married couple need to be living in an apartment or a house together.

  10. Joyce Moran says:

    Thirty years ago in Schenectady NY we had a couple get married and live together in a group home and another couple living in a supported apartment. Apparently time is marching backwards………

  11. Teresa says:

    I think it’s quite exceptional for this couple to marry. It’s not the usual thing but still they should be able to marry and live together. I’m sure with rules like any other resident. I guess they don’t fit perfectly in the rules of glass houses.

  12. Linda Thompson says:

    This may not qualify as discrimination due to disability, but it definitely a civil rights issue. Couples who marry are expected to live together are expected to live together–it is a society norm. If it is legal for to marry, then it is legal to live as a couple and they should not be denied specialized services they need in their daily living because they are married. Most group homes have shared bedrooms for two roommates of the same sex. If they can’t give a single room to two people due to licensing, then they should be allowed the double room. Because they are a married couple, they are being denied specialized housing they need due to their disabilities. If they were college students living in a dorm, the could co-habitat without being married. At least that was true when I was in college in the 1970’s. And believe me, those students were a lot less responsible then many adults who have developmental disabilities. Sure sounds like discrimination due to disabilities to me.

  13. Michael Jacobs says:

    Wow – talk about differing opinions of a single issue. Group Homes are businesses not entitlement facilities. With Medicaid funding having two individuals sharing a room & HPC services created billing & bookkeeping and licensing, and liability issues for the service provider. The attitude that a business (or employer) MUST provide someone with the services they want is all too often what prevents someone who happens to have a disability from reaching their potential.

  14. Amanda D says:

    Maybe just a lack of creative problem-solving on the part of the group homes? That said, the particular group homes they were living in may have been single-room only or single-gender and not really set up in a way that accommodates a married couple without creating new challenges for the other (equally important) residents. Not all group homes work for everyone–sometimes bedrooms are upstairs, so that rules out a particular group home for an individual who can’t do stairs, and they need to look elsewhere. Sometimes a group home isn’t on a bus route and an individual needs that in order to get to work. There are hundreds of things that make a living situation a “good fit”–for anyone, disability or none. That’s why we need lots of options. Looks like this couple got things worked out by relocating to a different group home that could accommodate their new arrangement–problem solved, yeah! Most couples probably end up moving to a new place together when they get married, anyway. It’s a bummer money was wasted on lawyers on this one, but then again, the families said they were wanting to make sure they aren’t discriminated against in the future, and if the lawsuit was the best way to address that, it is their prerogative to use the legal system. It’s not what I would do, but any time a family is planning for the future needs of their disabled family members it is good.

  15. Cristy Newlin says:

    The agency is not saying they cannot live together, they just can’t live together at that group home. I’m sure there are genuine hurdles that presented themselves when they explored the request. Governmental and agency created red tape is always going to be there – even if unintentionally so.

    Who wants to live with a bunch of other people when you’re a newlywed – that’s not the norm either – so move to a better set up.

  16. Muriel R. Tabor says:

    This brings to mind an interesting question. Does this decision mean that gay couples that are intellectually disabled will also not be allowed to cohabitate if they are legally married? I mean, after all, we are all about equal treatment under the law, which is why we are seeing gay marriages being upheld state by state. What if two gay men are legally married? Would it be acceptable for them to cohabitate because they are of the same sex? Does that not discriminate against heterosexual married couples? Or are we just going to not allow anyone that is married to cohabitate regardless of gender?

  17. Susy says:

    they are already married why would it matter and no Mike they shouldnt be any different then a person without a disability.

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