From NyTimes.com: By GERRY SHIH
"Clay M. Greene’s story, as recounted in his recent lawsuit against Sonoma County, is a tale of loss, doubled and redoubled. For gay men and lesbians, the series of events outlined in the complaint hits very close to home.
Mr. Greene, a 78-year-old gay man from Sebastopol, has filed a lawsuit against Sonoma County after saying he sustained a spate of indignities at the hands of officials during a bizarre estate battle that took place when his partner, who was 88, fell and became hospitalized in 2008.
News of Mr. Greene’s complaint came as President Obama was making headlines for his order extending hospital visitation rights and decision-making authority to same-sex partners.
The detailed complaint was filed on March 22, but news of it began ricocheting around the Internet, beginning on gay and lesbian sites Sunday and reaching venues like Daily Kos by Monday.
Mr. Greene’s troubles began when Harold Scull, his partner for more than 20 years, fell down the steps of their home in April 2008. At the time, the complaint said, Mr. Scull was showing signs of mental impairment.
County officials successfully petitioned the court to gain some powers of conservatorship. Then they “sold, kept, converted to their own use, and otherwise disposed of” almost $500,000 worth of belongings from the home shared by the two men — including furniture, art objects, memorabilia from the years Mr. Scull spent working in Hollywood, as well as a truck and two cats, the lawsuit alleges.
Mr. Greene said that he and Mr. Scull had previously specified each other as executors in case either became incapacitated, but the county ignored the legal documents and the history of their relationship, and at one point referred to Mr. Greene as Mr. Scull’s “roommate.”
Citing the state of Mr. Greene’s mental health, county officials then moved him against his will into a nursing home and sold the rest of his belongings, the suit charged. He was not allowed to visit Mr. Scull, who died several months later, in August 2008.
The nursing home, Agua Caliente Villa of Sonoma, is named as a defendant in the case. So is the auction company that sold the couple’s belongings.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights has joined the lawsuit, calling the situation an example of why “same-sex couples need full equality.”
Gay and lesbian elderly individuals, in particular, are vulnerable because “they are often estranged from their family and don’t have a legally recognized relative,” said Shannon P. Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Even here, where they had filled out legal documents, because their relationship is so thoroughly invisible and disrespected, it didn’t protect them.”
Mr. Minter said Mr. Greene’s situation was far less likely to happen to the surviving spouse of a heterosexual marriage.
Messages left at the office of Sonoma County’s legal counsel seeking comment were not returned. A message seeking comment left at the office of Anne Dennis, Mr. Greene’s lawyer, was not returned. Mr. Minter said Mr. Greene was unavailable for comment because he was in a “fragile” psychological state.
Embedded in the legalese of the complaint were stark anecdotal nuggets. At one point, as county officials moved through the couple’s home, the complaint alleged, they commented on the “quality” and “desirability” of the furnishings. They also mocked Mr. Greene, he said, calling him a “crazy old man,” said he had “dementia” and was a lost cause, laughed at him, and told him to “shut up and go to your room.”
On another instance, Mr. Greene claimed that employees acting as the county’s Deputy Public Guardians rolled their eyes and said in his presence, “you know how those gay boys are” and later expressed “displeasure at dealing with expressions of grief by a gay man who had lost his longtime partner.”
The case will go to trial on July 16, Mr. Minter said."