By Beth Hillyer
MANOA (KHNL)--Housing problems at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Two students say they were denied housing at the university because of their sexual orientation.
They lived on campus as a couple last year but university officials called that a mistake saying same sex couples don't qualify for family housing. U-H student Joe O'leary and his long time partner Phi Ngo lived in this family housing complex on campus last year. When they tried to renew, they were denied.
I was told because the state of Hawaii does not recognize domestic partnerships that the school not obligated to provide us housing for the next year," explains Plaintiff Joe O'leary. Joe used to get around on the campus shuttle. Now he has a 45 minute walk to school.
"Now we are paying more living off campus, food is also more expensive, we don't have access to the dining hall."
U-H explains it's position saying the state's definition of marriage which excludes same sex couples so they apply this definition to it's housing assignment policy.
"In their lawsuit Joe and Phi are challenging the University's decision to deny them family housing as a violation of their right to equal protection under the Hawaii constitution." says local attorney Clyde Wadsworth.
O'Leary's attorneys say they won a similar university housing discrimination suit in New York.
"Hawaii consistently held same sex couples are entitled to rights and benefits provided to opposite sex couples," adds O'Leary's attorney Brian Chase.
"I want to make sure the University doesn't do this to anyone else. I want the University to recognize we are a family, " concludes O'Leary.