Recently the ‘net was abuzz with a story concerning an elderly gay couple in Sonoma County, CA.
Today, NCLR launched a national media campaign to bring visibility to a tragic new case where Sonoma County, California officials separated an elderly gay couple and sold their worldly possessions despite the measures the men had taken to protect their relationship.“In the 33 years of our organization’s history, this case is perhaps among the most tragic NCLR has ever been involved in,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Clay and Harold had taken all of the necessary precautions, including living wills and powers of attorneys, to protect them in a time of crisis. Not only were their relationship and legal documents ignored, Clay and Harold literally lost everything. These appalling events demonstrate how urgently same-sex couples need full equality rather than a patchwork of rights that can be dismissed and ignored in a culture that still treats LGBT people as second-class citizens. This never should have happened to Clay and Harold.”
Clay Greene and his partner of 20 years, Harold Scull, lived in Sebastopol, California. As long-time partners, they had named each other beneficiaries of their respective estates and agents for medical decisions. As 2008 began, Scull was 88 years old and in deteriorating health. Greene, 11 years younger, was physically strong, but beginning to show signs of cognitive impairment. As Scull’s health declined, it became apparent that they would need assistance, but the men resisted outside help.
In April of 2008, Scull fell down the front steps of their home. Greene immediately called an ambulance and Scull was taken to the hospital. There, the men’s nightmare began. While Scull was hospitalized, Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.
Ignoring Greene entirely, the County petitioned the Court for conservatorship of Scull’s estate. Outrageously referring to Greene only as a “roommate” and failing to disclose their true relationship, the County continued to treat Scull as if he had no family. The County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Scull’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for Scull’s care. Then, despite being granted only limited powers, and with undue haste, the County arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.
Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Greene from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Greene was kept from seeing Scull during this time, and his telephone calls were limited. Three months after Scull was hospitalized, he died, without being able to see Greene again.
On first blush, the story pulls all the heart-strings of anyone with an ounce of compassion. Two people, who care deeply for each other and who shared a commitment over a number of years are deprived of each other’s company and lose their common property, as well as their physical liberty. Any freedom loving person would be appalled at such treatment, regardless of their sexual orientation or feelings on gay marriage. Nonetheless, the gay lobby and their sympathizers decided to seize on this story as a cause célèbre for the gay marriage agenda. The proposed meme contends that had California adopted gay marriage, such tragedies wouldn’t happen – and it is somehow this is all the fault of those who oppose gay marriage, who act only out of hateful bigotry.
There are however a few problems with that take.
The story itself of course reads at first a bit like some glurge one might be forwarded to one’s e-mail box; it is tantalizingly like an urban legend that begins with a sappy love story which is overtaken by evil government agents acting on behalf of an oppressive state. Situations are rarely that simple, but such a depiction serves the homosexual lobbyists, and serves to fire up the progressive masses on the internet. And by all accounts, they bought it hook, line and sinker. One thing that can always be counted on amongst left-wing bloggers is that they aren’t all that interested in facts, but much more interested in a story which serves their agenda and reinforces their belief systems. “Gay marriage good, conservatives bad” is pretty much the extent of their intellectual filter. So the story came out, was gobbled up (though not digested) – and of course no follow-up will happen, because these folks aren’t interested in facts which might muddle up their epistemic closure on all things homosexual.
At the outset its important to note the events themselves take place in Sonoma County, California. This is important because we aren’t talking about some back-woods, redneck, right-wing enclave that systematically oppresses anyone who isn’t a white heterosexual – this is perhaps one of the most gay-friendly places on earth. It is also one of the most ‘progressive’ parts of the country; so there is little indication that politics ordered the set of events detailed in this story.
It also went without note the reasoning the county gave for acting as it did with the two men. A wise Biblical proverb says, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” In this case of course, the left-wingers weren’t interested in the whole story, because another set of facts might threaten the usefulness of the story they had concocted – thankfully, in a rare move, the NYT’s followed-up with a response from the county:
Gregory G. Spaulding, the lawyer representing Sonoma County and the county employees named in a civil lawsuit filed by Clay M. Greene, a 78-year-old gay man from Sebastopol, said in an interview Tuesday that the county believed that Mr. Greene was abusing Harold Scull, the man he had lived with for 20 years.
That, Mr. Spaulding said, was the motivation behind the decision to separate the two elderly men, who were placed in different nursing care facilities. The separation and subsequent auction of the partners’ possessions, as described in the lawsuit Mr. Greene filed in March, have drawn strong condemnation on Web sites reporting the allegations.
But Mr. Spaulding, speaking in a telephone interview, had a different perspective. He said that Mr. Scull, while hospitalized after a purported fall, told county officials that Mr. Greene had hit him. “Our response was to a domestic violence situation,” Mr. Spaulding said. “And that’s why he was separated.”
Legal papers Mr. Spaulding filed this week in Sonoma County Court also say that Mr. Scull was represented by a lawyer, Ronald Preston, after his hospitalization and until his death.
Not such a clear cut picture now is it? Rather than two loving partners sharing a life together being separated by evil agents of the state, it appears those same agents were acting to protect the abused partner of the other. Of course, this doesn’t play well into the ‘gays just want to experience the joys of marriage’ meme that proffered by the gay lobby, so it isn’t something that those who are advancing the gay marriage agenda are going to report. They would rather sacrifice the truth on the altar of political expediency.
And what is even more ironic is what is really bothersome in this case is the wanton disregard the county showed for property rights. The fact that they felt they could imprison an individual and then confiscate his property to pay for his incarceration, even if they felt it was for his own health, is outrageous – but it is outrageous for conservative reasons, not progressive reasons. In this situation the bureaucrats were acting exactly as progressives want the state to act; to be indifferent to our property, to act in what they deem is our best interest, and to intrude into what should be personal and individual financial issues. It should be no surprise that bureaucrats in California, which is the epicenter of progressivism, treat people this way – this is how bureaucrats always treat people, and the left wants our lives to be run by such bureaucrats.
So in the final evaluation of the matter, the situation is indeed outrageous – but it’s not an argument for gay marriage, it is an argument to divest ourselves of the progressive state, which is ever more intrusive, and ever more eager to appropriate our property in the guise of serving our interests – whether we want them to or not.
Of course, you will never hear the whole story from those who are intent on advancing the power of the progressive state rather than being skeptical of it.
It’s a bit of a myth that this wouldn’t have happened to a heterosexual married couple; in fact, this does happen to elderly married couples.