CONNECTICUT: 11-Member Household Challenges Hartford’s Definition Of Family

The city of Hartford, Connecticut has been socking an 11-member household in a wealthy neighborhood with zoning violations because most of the adults living there are unrelated. Yesterday the household fired back with a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s definition of a family.

In a complaint filed in federal district court Wednesday, the eight adults who live in a Scarborough Street mansion said they are part of a functional, taxpaying household that includes three children, but that Hartford’s zoning laws forbid them from living together. “This issue of the government deciding who is a legitimate family and who is illegitimate is unacceptable to us,” said Joshua Blanchfield, a Hartford public school teacher who lives in the nine-bedroom home with his wife and two children.

The plaintiffs said the city’s refusal to accept them as a family and efforts to evict some of the occupants violate their rights under the state and federal constitutions, including a right to privacy and personal autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment. They are seeking damages for legal fees and “pain, suffering and emotional distress.”

The city did not return a request for comment by Wednesday night. Peter Goselin, an attorney representing the Scarborough group, argued that the city’s “antiquated” zoning code encroaches on his clients’ freedom to live as a family and raise children together through a partnership among longtime friends. “This is an important right that is part of a long American tradition of extended families, part of a long American tradition of cooperative and collective living arrangements, something that goes all the way back to the Iroquois Nation, even before there was a United States,” Goselin said.

More about the group from CBS News:

Just like like others, the home making headlines was purchased by a “family” who live in apparent domestic harmony — except they’re not. The group of 11 actually includes three couples, with three children and two single people. They’re all longtime friends who decided years ago they wanted to live together. “I think there’s a real extension of our values as people,” English teacher Kevin Lamkins said. “The values I’m speaking of are sustainability, cooperation, living more, living well but within your means. Being connected to other people and not being in a silo, so to speak.” The group of friends includes three teachers, a grants manager and a mental health therapist. “It’s not a cult, there’s no religion, there’s no intermingling,” Julia Rosenblatt said. “We’re really living like most people are, you know, we are just doing it together.” They purchased the nine-bedroom home and moved in last August. They have a legal partnership agreement and a shared bank account to pay expenses.

Although the zoning law restricts households to two unrelated adults, it
permits an unlimited number of live-in servants. The household’s
neighbors are citing a 1974 Supreme Court ruling which upheld a similar
zoning law in New York state. A law professor quoted in the above-linked
story says that the federal government has never ruled that “unrelated
people can be a family entitled to constitutional protection.” (Tipped by JMG reader Arcane)