UH Manoa to Open Family Housing to Gay Couples

Gregg Takayama
Gregg Takayama
Clyde Wadsworth
Clyde Wadsworth

MANOA (KHNL) -- A major change in policy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may be too late to stop a lawsuit that's receiving nationwide attention.

It was just Monday that a gay couple slapped the University with a discrimination lawsuit over a dorm dispute.

Now, University leaders announce that domestic partners may soon be able to live at the on-campus family housing.

A spokesperson for UH Manoa says that was their plan all along. He says the University has been working on changing its housing policy well before the lawsuit was filed.

John O'Leary and Phi Ngo claim UH denied them family housing because of their sexual orientation. But University leaders say they told the couple weeks ago that a change in their housing policy is already in motion.

"That's why we were very surprised and disappointed by the fact that they filed a lawsuit because we thought we were very close to an agreement with them," said UH Manoa spokesperson Gregg Takayama.

The couple's lawyer says they gave UH the opportunity to resolve the issue before they took legal action.

"They did not give us any kind of committment that the policy would be changed and they didn't give us any timetable to changing the policy," said Clyde Wadsworth, O'Leary & Ngo's lawyer.

O'Leary and his partner lived at the on-campus family housing last school year but were rejected when they tried to renew for this school year, forcing them to live off-campus.

A day after they filed suit, UH announced its plan to change its housing policy in time for the Fall semester.

The couple says that when they were denied a renewal, they were told the University made a mistake when they were allowed to live at the on-campus family housing the previous school year, and that UH's current housing policy is based on the fact that the state of Hawaii does not recognize domestic relationships.

Wadsworth said that UH's response is encouraging, and that they are willing to work with university leaders to craft a new housing policy that recognizes gay couples.