Clay Co. couple says they were unlawfully evicted because of sexual orientation

Published: Aug. 5, 2016 at 10:40 AM EDT
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A Clay County couple claims they were told to leave their apartment because of their sexual orientation.

Joshua Melton and his husband James Feltner lived in a townhome in Manchester for about nine months. They say they never had a problem until mid-June when they claim their landlord told them to get out the next day.

"She said she should have never rented to the f*****s," Melton said.

Their landlord was Esther Thompson, who is a Manchester City Council member.

WYMT could not find an eviction notice on-record with any official, but we did find a small claims complaint Thompson filed one month after the incident asking for $2,500.

In the complaint, Thompson wrote the tenants violated their lease in many ways, including having six dogs and damaging the carpet. Thompson said it was, "by far one of the worst I have seen."

"Yeah she's lying," Melton said. "There were three dogs ... chihuahuas that we've had forever and she knew that we had them. The carpet was not destroyed."

WYMT reached out to Ms. Thompson, but could not get her to comment. At one point, Thompson hung up the phone as we were trying to get her side of the story.

Since the incident, the couple reached out the Kentucky Equality Federation. The group claims the couple could not get help from any local officials, including the county attorney. However, the county attorney says he did help the couple by filing a criminal complaint after Melton said Thompson assaulted him the day she allegedly came into the couple's apartment.

"So, for them to say that we did not do anything to help them, is obviously inaccurate," Clay County Attorney Clay Bishop, Jr. said. "I mean, the record must speak for itself."

Court documents show Thompson is scheduled to be arraigned in Clay District Court Aug. 8 on the fourth-degree assault complaint. However, for Jordan Palmer of the Kentucky Equality Federation, that is not enough.

"Discrimination, we won't tolerate it in any form in any part of the Commonwealth," Palmer said. "It's just unfortunate that it's happened here in Clay County ... again ... but, we will see the case through to the end until justice is served."

Palmer claims the issues lie within city and county government. He said Manchester Police assisted in the eviction, which the police chief says is not true.

Palmer says his group reached out the Office of the United States Attorney to review the case for prosecution.

In a statement to WYMT, U.S Attorney Kerry Harvey wrote:

"Per Department of Justice Media Policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation” We can say that our office is committed to enforcing all of the civil rights statutes to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, (LGBT) individuals. “