A New York couple had a dream of living together. It is a dream that many couples have. They desire to have a future and build a life together. The two weren't just dating, they were married. And typically, couples that are married desire to live together. Sadly for them, this was not an option.
Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels are considered mentally disabled. Years ago they met at a day program. Their friendship grew over time and what turned into boyfriend and girlfriend led to the two of them getting married in April of 2012.
As reported by ABC's Good Morning America, the wedding had been "pushed back because the couple wanted to be able to live together once they were married." They both lived in group homes; however, it was important to them and their parents who had been helping them in their quest to have a home together.
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Prior to their nuptials Paul's mother did some research after her son and Hava expressed a desire to be married. She noted that she did not "know if people with developmental disabilities could be married." After approaching the staff where her son was living she was advised that her son and Hava would not be able to live together there.
In January of this year, the couple's families filed a lawsuit against both group home facilities. It was their belief that their rights were being violated based on the Fair Housing Act, 14th Amendment and Americans with Disabilities Act. As part of the suit it was noted that a clinical director believed that the two were not "capable of cohabitating" given their inability to perform various tasks ranging from washing and taking care of money on their own.
With the support of their family and the help of psychological assessments and relationship counseling, it was determined that the couple was "emotionally and mentally mature enough for a sexual relationship." Marriage, unlike much of what this couple encountered, made sense.
The lawsuit came forth out of the lack of provisions made for the couple with regards to finding "secure housing" even after all the steps that were made to show that the couple could handle marriage. After encountering various obstacles along the way recently the couple was given their own apartment in a group home facility. The lawsuit continues and with it perhaps continued discussions on marriage when it comes to people with disabilities.
While many couples face challenges unfamiliar to those of us who followed the unspoken rules of society (aka spent our lives with the person of our choosing who just so happened to fit in the category society feels is appropriate) this story brings to the forefront another community who runs the risk of being impacted by the opinions of others when it comes to something so sacred and personal as their love life.
It seems so much time is spent trying to ostracize people in our society, preventing them from marrying or living with the person of their choosing. It will be interesting what comes out of this. Perhaps this couple will pave the way for other couples with disabilities who are just as deserving of love and companionship as the next person. For more on this story visit ABC News.
-By Krishann Briscoe
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