Air Force, In Reversal, Will Discharge Lesbian Officer

April 19, 2010

by Julian Barnes | Los Angeles Times

Reversing an earlier decision, the Air Force said Monday it intends to discharge a lesbian Air Force officer who had remained in the military despite openly declaring her homosexuality.

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Justice and Comfort

April 19, 2010

New York Times editorial

The cause of equal rights for gays and lesbians, which is advancing in hard-won increments, moved forward on two important fronts this week.

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For Clay and Harold, and the Promise of Equality

April 19, 2010

By now you probably have heard about NCLR’s latest case, a heartbreaking story about Clay Greene and Harold Scull, an elderly gay couple in Sonoma County, CA, who were kept apart when Harold was hospitalized in 2008. During the last weeks of Harold’s life, the county terminated Harold and Clay’s lease, removed Clay from his home, and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county also auctioned off all of their belongings. Clay grieved alone, away from his home, and stripped of all his possessions.

Clay is now represented by dedicated attorneys, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who are committed to seeking justice for Clay.

Join us and our friends at GetEqual in sending a letter to President Obama, asking him to fulfill the American promise of “liberty and justice for all.” The time has passed for us to be expected to watch our community endure such ongoing inhumanity.

Last Thursday, President Obama issued a directive to the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to same-sex partners. This was a step toward fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, but it falls short of his promises to fight for equality in marriage, the military, and employment.

As we push this week for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), which bans openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military, and for the passage of ENDA, which would protect LGBT people in the workplace, Harold and Clay’s story reminds us that there are no fractions of equality. President Obama’s memorandum last week is simply not enough. We expect and deserve to see real and sustained leadership on behalf of the full dignity and humanity of every member of our community.

Ask the President to call on Congress to act NOW to repeal DOMA and DADT and to pass ENDA, and ask your friends and family to do the same.

In Solidarity,

Kate Kendell, Esq.,
Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights

Robin McGehee, Kip Williams, and the GetEQUAL crew

NCLR Launches Visibility Campaign to Expose Tragic Case Where Sonoma County Separated Elderly Gay Couple, Sold Off All Belongings

April 19, 2010

Long-term partners had taken necessary steps to protect relationship in time of crisis

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.

“Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years,” said Greene’s trial attorney Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa. “Compounding this horrific tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property or his beloved cats—who are feared dead. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.”

Greene is represented by Dennis along with Stephen O’Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O’Neill, Barrack & Chong in a lawsuit against the County, the auction company, and the nursing home. NCLR is assisting Greene’s attorneys with the lawsuit. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.

The case is Greene v. County of Sonoma et al., Case No. SPR-81815.

Learn more about NCLR’s Elder Law Project.

U.S. Supreme Court Weighs College Non-Discrimination Policies

April 19, 2010

Case may impact public universities around the country

Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which it will consider whether a student organization has a constitutional right to obtain public funds and other government-provided benefits while reserving the right to exclude members on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation or any other factor.

The case was filed by the Christian Legal Society (CLS), a national organization of Christian lawyers and law students, against the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Paul Smith of Jenner & Block represent Outlaw, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student group at Hastings, which intervened to defend the law school’s nondiscrimination policy. Hastings is represented by Ethan Schulman of Crowell & Moring LLP. Former United States Solicitor General Gregory Garre, chair of Latham & Watkins’ Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group, will argue on behalf of Hastings.

“If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Christian Legal Society, then any student group, whether religious or not, would have a First Amendment right to obtain funding, technical assistance, and other subsidies from a public university—even if the student group engages in the most blatant forms of discrimination,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter. “A student white supremacist group would have a constitutional right to obtain public money while maintaining a racially discriminatory membership policy. A student group that wanted to exclude women from leadership positions likewise would be entitled to receive public funds. Public universities would be required to support—and fund—private student groups that wish to practice the very forms of discrimination that the university itself is legally forbidden to promote.”

Like many public colleges and graduate schools, Hastings allows law students to organize student groups that can apply for university funding and other resources for group-related events. To be recognized as an official student group, all student groups must abide by Hastings’ policy on nondiscrimination. In 2004, the Christian Legal Society filed a lawsuit against Hastings, arguing that the nondiscrimination policy violated the group’s First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBT and non-Christian students.

On March 17, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Hastings and Outlaw, rejecting CLS’s arguments that the school’s policy violates its rights to freedom of speech, religion, and association. The court explained: “Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups—all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable.” The Ninth Circuit’s decision affirmed an earlier ruling by United States District Court Judge Jeffrey White upholding the nondiscrimination policy against CLS’s First Amendment challenge.

On December 7, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States granted CLS’s petition for writ of certiorari and agreed to review the court of appeals’ decision. A decision is expected by early July of 2010.