In response to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Housing Authority of Santa Monica today agreed to allow a gay man on disability to live with his partner of 10 years.
"I'm extremely relieved that my partner and I will no longer have to live apart," said Gene Boccia. "He's my life support system, helping me with everything from doing the grocery shopping to taking me to the doctor. It's a great comfort to know that from now on he'll be by my side around the clock."
Boccia, disabled since a 1974 hate crime in which he was shot in the face, has been living in the same housing complex since 1999, using Section 8 housing vouchers. This fall he learned from an unmarried, cohabitating heterosexual couple that he could apply to the Housing Authority to have his life partner Brett Crowley share his apartment with him. Crowley is a disabled veteran who also relies on public assistance. Although the couple has been together over 10 years, they have always lived apart in fear of violating rules that would jeopardize their assistance.
The couple applied to live together almost immediately after learning that they could do so, but the Housing Authority failed to act on their request. Boccia contacted the ACLU, which submitted letters to the Housing Authority in October pointing out that both state and local law prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Today the Housing Authority notified Boccia that his request to share his apartment with Crowley was approved.
"We're very pleased that the Housing Authority has decided to do right by this couple," said Christine Sun, a staff attorney for the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the ACLU. "Their story illustrates all too painfully what happens when the relationships of same-sex couples - especially those with limited incomes -- aren't respected."
Because Boccia and Crowley could not live together, they were also unable to apply to the state to become domestic partners. Now that this hurdle has been cleared, they plan to register with the state and take advantage of the expanded protections afforded to domestic partners that are scheduled to take place on January 1, 2005.
A copy of one of the letters submitted to the Housing Authority is available at http://www.aclu.org/LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=17179&c=100.