Diocese of Worcester Sued For Sex Discrimination Over Sale Of [Former Retreat House]
Monday, September 10, 2012
Furious: James Fairbanks (left) and Alain Beret say the church denied them the property over fears they would use it to host gay weddings
Alain J. Beret, left, and James Fairbanks, right, appear at a press conference this morning, along with one of their lawyers, Sergio E. Carvajal of the Worcester law firm Carvajal & Nielson
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester has been sued for sex discrimination after pulling out of a deal to sell a 44-room Northbridge mansion to a gay couple, James Fairbanks and Alain Beret.
Beret and Fairbanks, who are married, had been planning to use the property, called “Oakhurst,” as a wedding resort. The diocese pulled out of the sale when it discovered that gay marriages were to be permitted on the premises. The diocese had formerly used it as a [retreat house and previously as a treatment center for priests with psychosexual problems].
A chain of emails to the buyers from the diocese’s broker mistakenly included an email from Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, who had been negotiating on behalf of the diocese. Sullivan wrote: “I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop. Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”
Beret and Fairbanks ‘s attorneys, Carvajal & Nielsen P.C., joined by the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, have filed suit in Worcester Superior Court against the Worcester diocese, claiming discrimination against their clients. Rev. Robert McManus, the bishop for the Worcester diocese, Msgr. Sullivan, and Eastern Alliance Realty LLC of Shrewsbury, the agency for the sale, along with its principals, LiSandra Rodriguez-Pagan and Angel L. Pagan, have also been named as defendants.
“Discriminating against a person who is gay is no different than discriminating against a person who is black, Latino, Jewish or female,” said Sergio E. Carvajal, principal of Carvajal & Nielsen, in a statement. “It is wrong and it is illegal.”
“Monsignor Sullivan’s public statement that the deal fell through because of a lack of financing is false, and damaging to the reputation of our clients,” said Arose W. Nielsen, principal of Carvajal & Nielsen. “James and Alain are experienced businessmen with the financial means to purchase the property, and their proposal for the rehabilitation of Oakhurst has been enthusiastically welcomed by town officials.”