A woman with Down syndrome is fighting in a Virginia courtroom to choose where she will live, in a case that is raising questions about the civil rights of adults with disabilities.
The Washington Post reported that 29-year-old Margaret "Jenny" Hatch wants to live with her two friends rather than in a group home, against the wishes of her parents who have guardianship over her.
After Hatch won a Medicaid waiver in August 2012 that would allow her to get in-home and community-based disability services, her mother and stepfather filed for guardianship. They argue Hatch needs the support and safety the home can provide.
Living with her friends provided Hatch "too much freedom without supervision,” they argued, according to court documents.
Hatch's supporters argue she should have the right to choose where she lives. Hatch said she wants to live with her two friends, Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert, who hired her five years ago to work at a thrift shop they own. The pair later took her into their home.
The couple has turned the phrase "Justice for Jenny" into a mantra, and created a change.org petition on her case that has garnered almost 2,000 signatures.
"Her freedom of choice has been stripped from her with no respect for her dignity as an adult and as a human being," Talbert and Morris said in the petition.
The Washington Post reported the couple, who have become a party in the litigation, have spent more than $50,000 to continue the fight. They say the case is about Hatch's civil right to choose her own lifestyle.
"If she chooses, 'I want to live with Jim and Kelly,' and then, six months down the line, she decides ‘I want to live in an apartment,’ that is fine," Morris said. "If Jenny wanted to live in a group home and made that choice on her own, we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
The case, which has been ongoing for about a year, resumes July 29.
The Associated Press contributed to this report