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Disabled couple living separately offered apartment

Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels, both mentally disabled, were married in Wading River on Sunday afternoon.  The couple and their families are fighting a legal battle to allow them to live together in a group home after their honeymoon.  Videojournalist: John Paraskevas (April 7, 2013)

A newlywed couple with mental disabilities forced to live apart after their wedding last month might finally be able move in together.

Paul and Hava Forziano, who were married April 7 but live 3 miles apart in separate group homes for the mentally disabled in Manorville, were offered an apartment in a group home in Riverhead run by East End Disability Associates, according to court papers.

Paul Forziano's mother, Roseann Forziano, said the couple was ecstatic upon first seeing the apartment, which is attached to a group home housing eight others with similar disabilities.

"They were just hugging each other and they're very excited," Roseann Forziano said. "Seeing the apartment was a thrill for them. It's so normal."

If negotiations are successful, the Forzianos could move in by July 1.

Lisa Meyer Fertal, chief executive of East End Disability Associates, said the agency will add additional staff members to the home to support the Forzianos once they move in.

"We are very excited about providing them an opportunity to live together and support them in their marriage," Fertal said. "I think they're going to do fantastic. This is a goal they've had for seven years. It's finally happened for them."

The Forzianos, along with their parents, filed a federal suit in January against their current group homes, Independent Group Home Living Program and Maryhaven Center of Hope, as well as the state's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, arguing that state and federal law requires them to be able to live together as a married couple. While the Forzianos were married last month, they've been in a relationship for the past seven years.

The group homes have said that they don't want to house a married couple together, and that the Forzianos are too disabled to enter into a sexual relationship, according to court records.

Maryhaven issued a statement Monday saying it has supported relationships and marriages among its clients in the past, but only "when clinically appropriate."

The state issued a comment saying its goal "is to accommodate every individual's needs and desires to live the life they choose in the setting of their choice."

Representatives of Independent Group Home Living were not immediately available for comment.

Martin Coleman of Woodbury, one of the attorneys litigating the case for the Forzianos, said the lawsuit would not become a moot point if the Forzianos move in together.

"The suit will continue because there is a need by Paul and Hava to have the state and group homes change their policies that discriminated against them in the first place," Coleman said. "We have to make sure that Paul and Hava are not going to run into this again."


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