Condo community draws protestors over unmarried couple ban

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VENICE, Fla. - Some controversial restrictions by a Venice condo association has equal rights advocates crying foul. The Casa Di Amici condos in South Venice are restricting who can purchase or rent – and that includes no legally unmarried couples.

In Florida that includes those with domestic partnerships, heterosexual, or gay couples. And while some are claiming the policy is discriminatory, it turns out it's legal.

About 12% of the U.S. population lives in what's called a domestic partnership. As of July, none of those people would be allowed to buy at the Casa Di Amici.

That's not sitting well with equal rights groups outside the walls and many of the people who already live inside.

A few protestors gathered outside the community Thursday.

"It's just outright discrimination." Former Sarasota County Commission candidate Jennifer Cohen is one of those upset. At issue are new restrictions at the Casa Di Amici condos inside the Venetia mixed use development along Woodmere Park Boulevard in Venice. "They decided in their homeowners association that they would not permit unmarried couples, which could be gay, lesbian, or straight."

Local realtor Julia Nowak owns one unit in the community. She also says she's a lesbian. "I could not believe what I was reading here."

New rules passed by the condo association in July do not say outright that gays and lesbians can't live there, but does narrowly define who can. "It's basically stating in here that you have to be a single person or a married husband and wife to purchase in here."

ABC 7’s call to the president of the board has gone unanswered.

"I had no idea. I had no idea this was happening." Marilynn Rosenberg also lives there. She says most had no idea what their board was up to or why. "If one of those persons came up with this crazy idea how the other board members went along with it. It is just shocking to me."

We contacted Sarasota attorney Roy E. Dean, who wrote up the covenant. Over the phone he told us "he was not at liberty to discuss the issue."

ABC 7 asked our Facebook friends what they thought about it. While the vast majority were opposed to it, a few commentators had other opinions. Clark Dell wrote: "The rights of gays is not guaranteed anywhere in the Constitution. Progressives have no right to force a lifestyle on people who find it morally wrong. Besides, why would one want to live where they aren't wanted?"

Jim McKinley wrote in part: "I think it's fine. If it's legal they have the right to do what they want with their property."

Turns out it is legal.

"It is legal, but I think they got away with this because they are in the county. The city now has an ordinance for domestic registry," says Cohen.

Sarasota County does not have a domestic partnership ordinance. The Federal Fair Housing Act does not include marital status or sexual orientation.

Those upset are hoping the outcry brings change. "I hope they get more protestors. I hope they get protestors at this gate and the other one so that the people in our community will realize what is happening. I think there are a lot of people here who don't even know this is going on," says Rosenberg.