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Settlement Enables Group Home for People with HIV and Hepatitis C in N.H. to Continue to Operate

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Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced the settlement of a lawsuit between its client, AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region (ASMR), and the town of Gilsum, New Hampshire arising from an illegal tax levied on a group home for people with HIV and Hepatitis C.  The settlement will enable ASMR to continue the group home, known as the Cleve Jones Wellness House, without fear of being taken by tax deed by the Town.

 
“This case demonstrates that discrimination against people with HIV is hardly a relic of the past. We’re pleased that the Cleve Jones Wellness House can continue to fulfill its important mission of providing a stable home and vital services to people living with HIV and Hepatitis C,” said Bennett Klein, GLAD’s AIDS Law Project Director.

 
The settlement came as the result of a lawsuit filed by GLAD on July 5, 2011 in Cheshire Superior Court in Keene, New Hampshire. ASMR was a few days late filing the required application for a property tax exemption and the Town denied it on that basis, levying a hefty property tax. Documents requested from the Town, however, demonstrate that other nonprofits in Gilsum, such as the Congregational Church and the American Legion, never filed the required application, or filed it late, but were always granted a property tax exemption. The Town’s denial of the property tax exemption came after years of efforts by the Town to impede ASMR’s operation of the Cleve Jones Wellness House.

 
The lawsuit claimed that the town of Gilsum discriminated against ASMR with respect to the granting of property tax exemptions to nonprofit charitable organizations, thereby violating the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The Town agreed to release all tax liens on the Cleve Jones Wellness House.

 
ASMR is also represented by Stephen Bragdon of Bragdon, Dowd & Kossayda, P.C. in Keene and Elliott Berry of New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

 
AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region, founded in 1989, is a non-profit organization committed to serving people with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C in Cheshire County, southern Sullivan County, and western Hillsborough County.  ASMR offers case management, free, anonymous HIV testing in a confidential setting, educational programs, HIV+ speakers, and 200+ volumes in its lending library.