Renville County Sheriff’s Sergeant Sam Olson and his partner say they were illegally evicted from their apartment because they are gay. Olson filed suit in January against the owners of Island Estates of Bird Island, the Forum News Service reports.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is against the law in Minnesota. In 1993, the state became the first in the nation to bar such discrimination when the Minnesota Human Rights Act was passed.
According to the Forum News Service, the trouble began in 2013:
Olson says Island Estates did not know his sexual orientation at that time, but his same-sex partner accompanied Olson to the lease signing in September 2013 at the home of Island Estates’ chief manager Alan Tersteeg and manager Peggy Tersteeg.
Olson and his partner both signed the six-month lease for a one-bedroom unit.
Olson says in his lawsuit that Peggy Tersteeg “looked confusingly” at Olson’s same-sex partner and that Tersteeg “appeared like she may have been uncomfortable.”
Island Estates denies that Tersteeg was ever uncomfortable during the lease signing or “looked confusingly” at Olson’s partner.
Olson said Island Estates told him he would be able to sign another lease at the end of his term.
In the civil complaint, Olson says Alan Tersteeg approached a neighbor of Olson’s unit and asked him if he was comfortable with a same-sex couple living next door. Island Estates in its response denies that this ever happened.
Olson was unable to reach the Tersteegs in March 2014 to renew his lease.
He says he was told in April that he and his partner would be put on a verbal month-to-month lease.
Soon after, Olson was evicted even though he says he had wanted to sign another lease.
The owners of Island Estates have denied the claims.
Olson is a decorated member of Renville County law enforcement. In 2011, he was awarded the Chris Domeier Community Oriented Policing Award for his commitment to community policing. The sheriff at the time said Olson is known for “his compassion to serve, and his courage to protect,” the West Central Tribune reported. In 2010, he was also honored for work related to reducing traffic deaths in the county.
According to Forum News Service, the case is expected to begin later this summer.