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Gay couple says church did not want to sell mansion to them


NORTHBRIDGE (FOX 25 / – A gay couple says they tried to purchase a Northbridge mansion owned by the Diocese of Worcester, but later notified via e-mail that the diocese had decided to pursue "other plans" for the property.

According to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, James Fairbanks and Alain Beret put in an offer for $1 million for the 44-bedroom home and the Diocese of Worcester accepted it.

The couple wanted to turn the run-down estate into a banquet facility. So in May, the couple signed an offer to purchase the home, made a deposit and paid for a home inspection.

Then in June, the couple was notified that a $240,000 sprinkler system would have to be installed. The diocese's broker suggested the men make a smaller counteroffer for the home and some of the land, rather than the full 24 acres. The men made a revised offer of $550,000 for the mansion and six acres.

But the next day, the couple received an e-mail from the diocese's broker, saying the diocese decided to pursue "other plans" for the property. Beret, who is an attorney, was shocked and said he never thought the diocese would walk away from the deal.

Monsignor Thomas Sullivan oversees the sale of diocesan property. He told the newspaper the deal fell through due to financing. However, when the couple received an e-mail rejecting the counteroffer, an e-mail from Msgr. Sullivan to the diocesan broker was also attached.

"I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop," Msgr. Sullivan wrote. "Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they're shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language."

The couple's attorney, Sergio Carvajal, says state law prohibits discriminating against buyers based on sexual orientation.

Read more: Worcester Telegram and Gazette