Mentally disabled couple sues to live together

Newlyweds challenge law that forbids them from sharing a bedroom

Published On: May 08 2013 11:29:54 AM EDT   Updated On: May 08 2013 04:29:06 PM EDT
Paul Farziano, Hava Samuels

Two mentally disabled newlyweds and their parents have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit so that they may live as married couple.

Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels got married last month, but the state-sanctioned nonprofits that run the group homes they live in have a strict rule which forbids residents from sharing bedrooms, according to The Associated Press.

The couple and their parents said they have been seeking a solution since 2010 and only filed a lawsuit that after Forziano and Samuels were flat-out refused permission from their respective group homes to live together as husband and wife. "It's not something we wanted to do, it's something we had to do," said Bonnie Samuels, the mother of the bride.

The lawsuit contends Forziano's facility refused because people requiring the services of a group home are by definition incapable of living as married people. Samuels' home refused because it believes she doesn't have the mental capacity to consent to sex.

This case put the Americans With Disabilities Act, which says that "a public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures ... to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability" into the spotlight. The group homes are licensed as nonprofits by the state and receive Medicaid funding on behalf of their clients.

Experts say it is difficult to estimate how many mentally disabled people are married, since states ask no questions about a person's mental capacity on marriage licenses.