Plot Thickens in Sonoma Discrimination Case

April 28, 2010

by Mac McClelland | Mother Jones

I appear to be having my own personal little pride week over here. In part three of my recent gay-rights rampage, let’s talk about the case of Harold Scull and Clay Greene.

Last week the story of Sonoma County’s treatment of this elderly gay California couple came out: When Scull was hospitalized in 2008, county workers kept Greene from seeing him, despite the couple’s legal medical directives, put Scull in a nursing home without consulting Greene, detained Greene against his will in a different nursing home, and seized and sold all of both men’s belongings to pay for the care of Scull, who died a few months later. Greene, naturally, is suing. Sonoma County is saying it did what it did because it was afraid Scull was being abused.

I’ve made clear before that I have trouble being sympathetic toward spouse-abusers, but discrimination is discrimination, and discrimination is never right. Or as one of Greene’s lawyers, Shannon Minter, more articulately put it, “The county was certainly right to take initial measures to investigate and determine whether there was abuse, which is a serious issue…But they did not treat this case as they would have for a heterosexual couple.”

That last sentence is key, and it needs a little unpacking. What’s the difference, I asked Minter, in the way the county would’ve handled the case were this a heterosexual couple dealing with allegations of abuse?

Ordinarily, they would have sought conservatorship of Harold’s person. They did not. They sought conservativeship of Harold’s estate only. That is peculiar right out of the box. Then what they did subsequently was just try to get rid of Clay [Greene], get Clay out of the picture, without any recognition that these two people had been together for so long.

Then they did something you see in nightmares and scary movies:

They had Clay put into a secure nursing facility and claimed that he had dementia when he did not. And they did not follow the legal procedure for putting someone in a secure nursing faciliity. You cannot do that without having the person evaluated by a doctor to determine whether they’re capable of making their own decisions. He tried to leave. He tried to walk away, to climb over the fence, but they would physically prevent him from leaving.

Then the county sold all Greene’s possessions, along with Scull’s. Greene’s pickup truck, his mementos from when he worked in the movie industry. When the county originally requested conservatorship of Scull’s estate, a judge denied it. It’s not clear whether it got legal control of his property eventually, but it certainly never had legal control of Greene’s. So even if Greene had been abusive, it seems the county was alarmingly out of line. “If this had been a married heterosexual couple,” Minter says, “they couldn’t have done these things. And wouldn’t have done these things.”

In a recent twist, it’s looking more than ever like Greene wasn’t abusive, anyway. The DA had already come to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence of abuse to prosecute. It’s not clear if the county investigated further before deciding to force Greene into a home and sell all his stuff, but if it did, it must not have consulted the allegedly-abused’s best friend and executor of estate: Yesterday, she published an op-ed in the local Press Democrat saying that the allegations are totally unfounded. She’s become a plaintiff in the case against Sonoma.


Court Hears Dispute on Petition Signers’ Names

April 28, 2010

from the Associated Press

Gay rights opponents are asking the Supreme Court to protect the anonymity of the signers of a petition that sought a vote to overturn Washington state’s domestic partnership rights.

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Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case in Which LGBT Legal Groupds Filed Brief Disputing False Claims of Harrassment and Defending Open Government Requirements

April 28, 2010

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Doe v Reed, in which anti-gay groups present the false claim that they have been subjected to “systematic intimidation” by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Anti-gay groups that placed a measure on the ballot to keep Washington State’s comprehensive domestic partnership law from going into effect are seeking to prevent the state of Washington from disclosing the names of voters who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives.

Three of the nation’s leading LGBT legal organizations, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) together with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, vigorously and thoroughly refuting the false claims presented to the Court in this and other cases.

Some of the instances of supposed “intimidation” cited by opponents and noted in the amicus brief include:

  • A country club member in California, a supporter of Proposition 8, noted that “the openly gay members of the country club have changed their attitudes toward me. They used to greet me warmly; now, they give me looks of disdain and do not greet me as I pass.”
  • A person with a yard sign supporting Proposition 8 was disturbed on Halloween that some people “pointed and whispered to one another in disapproval” during trick-or-treating.
  • A woman was upset that her brother, who is gay, would no longer speak to her after she told him she might vote for Proposition 8.

As the amicus brief says, these complaints “are not only trivial, they reflect a fundamental refusal to accept the legitimacy of speech that disagrees with the complainants’ viewpoints, deeming it ‘hateful’ or ‘harassing’ simply because they do not like hearing it.”

“There’s nothing to see here, folks,” said Jon Davidson, Legal Director of Lambda Legal. “There’s no comparison between a few scattered instances of whispers and disapproving glares and the very real discrimination, harassment and even violence LGBT people experience every day all over the country. After all, more hate crimes are reported against gay people than any other group per capita in the United States.”

“The Petitioners are attempting to create a through-the-looking-glass world in which the aggressors are the victims and the victims the aggressors,” said Gary Buseck, Legal Director of GLAD.

“This is an outrageous attempt by anti-gay groups to use false claims of persecution to undermine laws that protect the integrity of the democratic process,” said Shannon Price Minter, NCLR Legal Director.

The brief in Doe v. Reed (Case No. 09-559) was prepared by Luke Platzer and William Hohengarten of Jenner & Block, Jon Davidson and Susan Sommer of Lambda Legal, Gary Buseck and Mary Bonauto of GLAD, and Shannon Minter and Christopher Stoll of NCLR. It is available at www.glad.org/doe-v-reed, www.lambdalegal.org/our-work/in-court/briefs/doe-v-reed_us_20100401_amicus-lambda-legal-et-al.html, and www.nclrights.org/Doe_v_Reed_amicus_brief.

A ruling in the case is expected later this year.


School Cuts Gay Student Photo from Yearbook

April 27, 2010

by Adam Lynch | Jackson Free Press

When Veronica Rodriguez opened Wesson Attendance Center’s Yearbook on Friday, she didn’t find a trace of her lesbian daughter Ceara Sturgis after a long battle with school officials to include a photo of her daughter wearing a tuxedo in the school’s 2010 yearbook.

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Tobias Barrington Wolff on Arizona’s New Immigration Law

April 27, 2010

I have just finished reading through the text of the law that has been enacted in Arizona targeting undocumented immigrants.  I have been studying the laws of the United States and working on civil rights issues for fifteen years, but I have never seen a more appalling and dehumanizing statute in present-day America than this measure.

It is not merely that this statute declares an entire class of human beings to be inherently criminal — trespassers on all public and private land in Arizona because of their status.  It is not merely that the law requires police and other law enforcement agents in Arizona to treat an entire population as presumptively criminal on the basis of their race and appearance.  It is not merely that the statute effectively requires lawful immigrants to carry papers wherever they go in order to avoid arrest and detention, as if we were living in apartheid-era South Africa or half-slave / half-free pre-Civil War America.

What is yet more appalling is this: If, tomorrow, every undocumented immigrant in Arizona simply left or disappeared, the economy of that state would collapse.  The purpose of this law is not to get rid of all undocumented immigrants.  The purpose of this law is to disempower all brown-skinned immigrants in Arizona, turning them into a third-class group who must live in constant fear of government and are subject to arbitrary abuse and exploitation.

LGBT people know what it means to be declared by statute to be inherent criminals — to be told that we are illegal people.  Transgender people know what it means to be told that their very being, dress or appearance makes them inherently suspicious and subject to arrest and detention.

We must stand up against this law, and we must do so loudly and strongly.

Tobias Barrington Wolff
Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania Law School


Senate Panel Rejects Gay Adoption Expansion

April 27, 2010

by Bill Barrow | The Times-Picayune

Lengthy and passionate testimony in the Senate Judiciary A Committee today ended with a 3-1 party line rejection of a measure that would have expanded gay adoption in Louisiana.

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California Assembly Modifies Law Seeking Gay ‘Cure’

April 27, 2010

from CBS-5

A vote in the California Assembly on Monday to modify a 60-year-old law that classified gays as sexual deviants reopened a little known chapter of social history in a state long known as a leader for gay rights.

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Franken to Introduce Bill Addressing Anti-Gay Bullying

April 27, 2010

by Andy Birkey | The Minnesota Independent

Al Franken asked testifiers at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee how the nation’s public education system can address bullying targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. And the Minnesota senator announced he’ll be introducing a bill to address the issue of bullying that targets LGBT students. It’s the second time in recent weeks that Franken has spoken out in committee hearings about the issue.

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National Faith Leaders to Hold Vigil in D.C. to Stop the Export of Homophobia by U.S. Evangelists

April 27, 2010

by Esther Rubio-Sheffrey | San Diego Gay & Lesbian News

Religion offers hope and often inspires individuals to paths of righteousness, but historically, murders have also been justified, and in some cases, instigated by religious institutions and their leaders.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Uganda and the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” government officials are considering.

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Gay Weekly D.C. Agenda Sets a Memorable Date: The Return of The Washington Blade

April 27, 2010

by Dan Zak | Washington Post

The District’s long-running gay weekly will resume publishing under its original name, the Washington Blade, at the end of this week, after the acquisition of the Blade’s assets in bankruptcy court in Atlanta.

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