A 70-year-old lesbian has been spat on, pushed over, slapped and told that “homosexuals will burn in hell” by residents in her care home.
Marsha Wetzel moved into the Glen Saint Andrew Living Community in Niles, Illinois, after her partner of 30 years, Judy, died of colon cancer.
She is now suing the home for failing to protect her from abuse, in a landmark case which could ensure that the Fair Housing Act protects LGBT people who are harassed by other tenants.
In a heartbreaking video released by her representatives, LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, the 70-year-old said she had to move to the care home after she was rejected by her in-laws.
She was “shunned, completely shut out” and not even taken to the funeral of the woman she had loved for three decades, simply because they did not accept her relationship with Judy.
They took her house away, and her son became violent.
After being housed in the care home, she made lots of new friends – and then, said Marsha, everything changed.
One of the residents asked about her husband, and she told the truth.
This brought on a tidal wave of homophobia against her, she said.
“I thought: oh no, here we go again. Gay hate.
“There were a handful of residents, I could tell were really going to give me trouble. I tried to avoid them but they would seek me out to taunt me.
She said that she had “heard every negative homosexual term; I’ve been hit more than once.”
The abuse had taken a massive toll on her, she said.
“You can get so scared, you can’t sleep, you can’t eat,” said Marsha.
“You don’t want to take a shower, you don’t want to get dressed. You don’t want to go in the
The anti-gay harassment got so bad that she would think of death as an escape.
“I’d look out the window; I’ve got a cemetery out there,” she said.
“That’s when I’ll stop being made fun of because I’m gay.”
And, Marsha said, she received no protection from the authorities.
“I feel like the staff don’t protect me. I don’t feel any safety in going to them. They accuse me of things I don’t do, they ignore me like a ghost.
“I’m not treated like the other residents. If you can’t go to the staff, who do you go to?
So she took action – but not just for her.
“How many other gays in these retirement homes are going through what I’m going through?” she asked.
“I want to stick with this and get justice, and I want people to know: stop pushing us around.”
Remembering Judy, she said her partner had been “so generous of herself, so giving so loving. So pretty”.
“I know she’s rooting for me, and she’d be happy that I’m doing it for her, and she’d be happy I’m doing it for myself.”
A ruling from the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago is expected in the next several weeks.
Watch Marsha tell her tale here: