A Colorado landlord who claims to possess magical psychic powers refused to rent to a queer couple after she predicted their “uniqueness” would cause trouble in the neighborhood.
When Tonya Smith and her wife Rachel, a trans woman, applied to rent a home from psychic Deepika Avanti in the town of Gold Hill (pop. 230), they were allegedly told in an email that their “unique relationship” would become a “town focus,” triggering gossip and blowing Avanti’s “low profile.”
“In small towns everyone talks and gossips,” the email read. “All of us would be the most popular subject in town. … There is no way to avoid this.”
To be sure she was making the right decision rejecting the Smiths based on Rachel’s gender identity, Avanti said she had consulted with another “psychic friend,” who advised her not to rent to the couple. This friend, Avanti claimed, was a very reliable psychic who could predict diseases up to eight years in advance, therefore she simply could not ignore the advice.
Avanti concluded her email by insisting she wasn’t a bigot because she “has a transvestite friend herself.”
Well, on Thursday, the self-proclaimed “psychic healer” was blindsided when the Smiths, with the help of Lamda Legal and the law firm of Holland & Hart in Denver, filed a lawsuit accusing her of violating the federal Fair Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
Avanti had no idea the lawsuit had been filed until she was contacted by the Daily Camera for comment. She denied being a bigot and told the paper she had rejected the Smiths because she felt their children were “too hyper” and would be “way too noisy.”
“It had nothing to do with their sexuality or anything like that,” she insisted. “It had to do with noise levels. I live at that house. It would have been too noisy for me. I am one of the housemates there. It was just too many bodies in too small a space.”
The Smiths are seeking emotional and punitive damages and are demanding Avanti take a class in fair housing.
“Worrying about what the neighbors will say is no excuse for discrimination,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said in a statement. “Tonya and Rachel Smith are loving spouses and parents whose ideal home was denied to them because they are a same-sex couple with kids and Rachel is transgender. That’s not just wrong, it is unlawful.”