POSTED: Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — A gay couple is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts for allegedly refusing to sell them a Northbridge mansion.
They claim church officials were concerned they would host gay weddings at the site.
James Fairbanks and Alain Beret filed their discrimination suit Monday in Worcester Superior Court.
"They must have assumed, or were told, that we were gay and therefore we would be gay magnets," Beret said.
They allege in the suit that in the middle of negotiations to buy Oakhurst, a former retreat center affiliated with the diocese, church officials suddenly pulled out.
Their plan was to turn the estate into a banquet facility.
They say they inadvertently received an email from the chancellor of the diocese to the church's broker saying the reason was because of the "potentiality of gay marriages" at the facility.
"I want to be clear. There was never, ever a discussion about gay marriage," Beret said.
A church leader has been quoted in local newspapers as saying it had nothing to do with the fact that the couple is gay, but rather the coupleâ€™s finances are dicey.
"Well I would ask the monsignor to read his email wherein he says "because of the potential of gay marriages there we donâ€™t want to continue with these buyers,'" Beret said.
The couple's attorney says no matter what the church's rules are, state laws have been broken.
"It is our contention that their behavior was illegal in violation of Massachusetts law. This has nothing to do with canon law or what the church believes. It has to do with Massachusetts law," said Sergio Carvajal, Beret's attorney.
Beret and Fairbanks are seeking damages.