Suit claims intentional discrimination against individuals with disabilities

March 14, 2017

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INDIANAPOLIS—The ACLU of Indiana, on behalf of New Horizons Rehabilitation, Inc., filed a lawsuit alleging that the State of Indiana is intentionally discriminating against New Horizons and its clients with disabilities.

New Horizons plans to open a supported living home in Lawrenceburg, Ind., which will be the permanent residence for three adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This home is planned for an area zoned for single-family residences and will be physically indistinguishable from the other single-family homes in the area.

Nevertheless, the State of Indiana, through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, has interpreted existing Indiana law and regulations to stipulate that the New Horizons home meet requirements different from single-family residences occupied by non-disabled persons, contrary to the Constitution and federal law.

The lawsuit claims that these actions, which place undue burden on New Horizons and fail to accommodate its clients, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; the Fair Housing Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C _ 3604(f); the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. _ 794; and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. _ 12132.

"The Constitution and federal law guarantee that persons with disabilities will not be discriminated against. And yet the State of Indiana is imposing onerous burdens on New Horizons Rehabilitation and its clients solely because they are persons with disabilities," said Ken Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana. "This is unlawful, and we will defend the rights of these individuals to live in their community, free of discrimination."

The property was donated to New Horizons with the understanding that a home for individuals with disabilities would be built on the site. The project would be proceeding, but for the State's actions.

The ACLU of Indiana is requesting a preliminary injunction and damages for the plaintiff.

The case, New Horizons Rehabilitation, Inc., v. State of Indiana; Executive Director, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Case no. 4:17-cv-00049-TWP-DML, was filed March 14, 2017, in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division. Attorneys on the case include Ken Falk and Jan Mensz, ACLU of Indiana.

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The nonprofit, New Horizons Rehabilitation, Inc. provides services for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio, Franklin, Decatur, and Switzerland counties in Indiana.