Mentally Disabled Couple's Legal Battle Ends with New Home


"We were led to believe that in order to be married and cohabitate, they'd have to prove that they were [capable]. That is not valid," he said. "We were misled. We spent a year and half going through those steps, because we believed it had to be done that way."

Samuels said that that Maryhaven used an outdated mode of psychological analysis to establish whether Hava was able to consent to marriage and sexual relations – a tool which he says is invalid. Maryhaven, he said, also refused to educate her.

"They said, 'We don't have the facilities to educate them.' That's not even valid," he told "They could have hired someone. They didn't want to do it. In our mind they were just against it all along."

Attorney Robert Briglio, who is representing the families, told that the homes where Paul and Hava reside are trying to maximize the homes' independent decision making, and that the state of New York must be held responsible for how they're run.

"[The state] funds these homes to provide Medicaid waiver services," he said. "That's the program under which the clients are residing. The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is responsible for that program. They use private agencies like these homes. That doesn't mean [the state is] not responsible for how that program is operated."

Representatives from IGHL refused to speak with regarding the case.

Christine Hendriks, a spokeswoman for Catholic Health Services of Long Island, said in a statement that Maryhaven Center of Hope has "supported and facilitated efforts" in which clients have expressed a desire to build a relationship in the hope it leads to marriage.

"There are instances where facilitating a marriage is not warranted, indicated or appropriate in our clinical setting," she said in a statement. "When a resident in our judgment is clinically incapable or lacks the requisite ability to consent to the marital relationship or requires a level of service and supervision where an accommodation is not possible, we cannot provide the services necessary to facilitate the marital relationship and cohabitation."

After years of the families' battling the system, the couple was granted a home when a vacancy opened up in a group home for the mentally disabled in Riverhead, Long Island, run by East End Disability Associates. Representatives from East End asked the state in 2012 if they could use a newly vacant space to expand the population of the house. But the state denied the request, according to Forziano.

After the families filed their lawsuit, the state began looking for places to house Paul and Hava together, and queried agencies about interest in housing them. East End Disabilities responded.

This week, the couple was offered their own one-bedroom apartment in the home. They will move in sometime in July, according to Forziano.

"We went Monday to see it," she said. "They're very excited. They met the other individuals living in the home. We didn't want to throw them from the frying pan into the fire. We did research, had a psychologist go over there and to the guys that live there. Hava's figuring out where the TV is going to go!"

Although the state was eventually able to help the couple achieve their dream, the lawsuit will go on. Both IGHL and Maryhaven had a duty to encourage the couple's desire to marry and cohabitate, according to the complaint.

"The suit will continue, so the state will have to clarify its stance on married people with disabilities," Forziano said. "It's not just marriage, it's any civil right. You see that people are allowed to cohabitate, and IGHL won't, because they don't think it's a good idea. It has to be the same services across the board."

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