I'm mostly lurking on Daily Kos now that I have two part time jobs and a full time job, but I wanted to pass along this outrageous story that shows why LGBT people are still fighting. "Post-gay" my ass.
Kate Kendell, the XD at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and an attorney herself, wrote at Bilerico about an elderly gay couple that thought they did everything right and went an extra mile beyond what heterosexual couples are required to do (advance medical directives, wills, powers of attorney), only to find out that no one would respect those documents when needed.
The couple, Harold and Clay, were fine until Harold fell down and Clay wasn't consulted or allowed to see Harold. Sonoma County CA, where they lived, went to court to get to make medical decisions on Harold's behalf, but were denied. Then:
Without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold's possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.Check out the original post to read the whole story from Kate Kendell.
Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county's actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this 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. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.
I'm just outraged. I hope to be elderly one day (if I don't go all Mishima on everyone) and this is something lots of gay people worry about. We're less likely to have children to help us and more likely to be alone when we age. And even if we're not isolated from others, like Harold had Clay, our intimate relationships aren't likely to be respected. It's not just about being kept from the person one loves (although it's about that), it's about being put in a scary situation where you have little power with no one to advocate on your own behalf.
Plus there's plenty of non-gay-specific outrageousness in this story, although the fact that the victims were gay and they were being discriminated against because of that fact means that we're going to have to wonder what role that played in the auctioning, forced confinement in a nursing home (for Clay), and ending their lease.
Kate says the local press isn't investigating/covering this story:
Also, please write a letter to the local paper, the Press Democrat (owned by The New York Times) asking them to do some investigative reporting on the Greene v. County of Sonoma case. So far they have ignored the story.*
Send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the story and a link to this post.
Update Rec list? Awesome. The word should get out about this.
People are bringing up a couple questions in the comments. First, Obama released a presidential memo that allowed same-sex partner visitation, among other things. I don't know if that applies here, for a couple of reasons.
First, it specifies that it applies to:
all hospitals participating in Medicare or MedicaidDoes a county nursing home count as a "hospital"?
Second, this is the sort situation that the memo was supposed to deal with. It wasn't just a gay rights memo - it was an attempt to end some hospitals' practice of ignoring advance health care directives:
Ensure that all hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid are in full compliance with regulations, codified at 42 CFR 482.13 and 42 CFR 489.102(a), promulgated to guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected, and that patients' representatives otherwise have the right to make informed decisions regarding patients' care.This nursing home should have respected the advance health care directive Harold had under California law. The state of California has a simplified process for writing them up, and health care professionals are required by law to respect them. From the California Hospital Association:
What are the duties of health care professionals?That's part of why Clay is suing - he did have the right documents but they weren't respected.
A health care provider or institution must comply with a patient’s advance directive or instructions from
an agent or surrogate to the same extent as if the decision had been made by the patient.
Third, I wonder about the enforcement of that memo. It doesn't provide recourse for people whose rights have been denied, and although it ties these policies to Medicare/Medicaid participation, would the government kick them out of those programs for a situation like this one?
Also some people are bringing up marriage in the comments. I don't know how much that would have changed the situation here. This couple had the documents they needed and the county simply disrespected them. There's no reason to believe that they wouldn't have simply ignored a marriage either.
There's also no reason to believe that Clay and Harold would have gotten married. They could have during the time same-sex marriages were legal in California in 2008, but they didn't. They could have also gotten a domestic partnership, which has been legal in California for years, but they didn't. Many elderly couples, gay and straight, choose not to get married often because they'll lose retirement and Social Security benefits if they marry, and many couples, gay and straight and elderly and young and middle-aged, don't get married for cultural and personal reasons.
Not that they should have to get married in order to keep this from happening to them. And the state of California recognizes that, and that's why they created advance health care directives and wills and other legal tools for people to express their wishes outside of the institution of marriage.
But the county ignored all that, most likely because this was a gay, elderly couple. And all the legal documents in the world don't change that.