SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene’s deceased partner of 20 years, reached a $650,000 settlement July 22 resolving their lawsuit against the County of Sonoma and other defendants for the damages the couple suffered due to municipal employees’ discriminatory and unlawful conduct.
Greene and Scull lived together for 20 years and had executed both mutual powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions and wills naming each other as beneficiaries. In April 2008, County employees in the Public Guardians Office separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials ignored the couple’s legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will.
The County did not consult Greene in Scull’s medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another. In August 2008, before the partners could be reunited, Scull passed away after completing a photo album of the couple’s life for Greene.
In August 2009, Greene and the representative of Scull’s estate, the couple’s longtime friend Jannette Biggerstaff, filed a lawsuit alleging elder abuse, elder financial abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and other claims.
Biggerstaff stated, “There is no possible justification for what happened to my friends Harold and Clay, and I still feel outraged and heartbroken that they suffered such a terrible tragedy, which was made worse by the County spreading such terrible lies about Clay. But I am pleased that their rights have been vindicated, and I’m hopeful that their story will help to prevent this from happening to other vulnerable people.”
“What Clay and Harold lost can never be replaced, but this settlement brings a measure of justice to their story,” said Amy Todd-Gher, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and one of Greene’s representatives. “This victory sends an unmistakable message that all elders must be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that those who mistreat elders must be held accountable.”
In addition to agreeing to pay to settle the lawsuit, the County has changed or modified a number of important policies in its Public Guardian’s Office, including requiring County employees to follow protocols before seizing private property, preventing County employees from relocating elders or others against their will and prohibiting County employees from backdating information in their guardianship database.
“This settlement will allow Mr. Greene to finally have the quiet retirement he deserves,” said Anne N. Dennis, another of Greene’s attorneys. “Although nothing can undo the harm to these gentlemen, we believe the changes made because of the lawsuit will improve services to elders and other individuals who need the assistance of the Sonoma County Public Guardian’s Office.”
> The Food and Drug Administration’s Blood Products Advisory Committee held a hearing July 26 to review recent recommendations by the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability that included maintaining the current policy barring blood donation from any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. In testimony submitted for the hearing, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) argued that it was possible to maintain the safety of the nation’s blood supply without needlessly discriminating against gay donors.
“It’s past time that we examine scientifically and medically sound alternatives to the blanket ban on gay men giving blood,” Kerry said. “The science regarding HIV/AIDS contraction has advanced dramatically in the last three decades, and our understanding of what constitutes high risk behavior has grown far beyond the ignorant idea that sexual orientation is an indicator in itself.”
The current FDA policy forbids men from donating life-saving blood if they have engaged in even a single sexual act with another man since 1977. The same policy allows heterosexual men and women who have had sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner to give blood after only a one-year waiting period.
Among the many organizations calling for a revision of the discriminatory FDA policy are the American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, and AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks). These organizations have stated that the exclusion of gay men from the national community of blood donors is “medically and scientifically unwarranted.” The American Medical Association has also called for the policy to be modified.
> Seven committed same-sex couples have filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana for failing to provide legal protections to same-sex couples and their families in violation of the Montana Constitution’s rights of privacy, dignity and the pursuit of life’s basic necessities and its guarantees of equal protection and due process. The goal of this lawsuit is ensure that same-sex couples are able to protect their families with the same kind of legal protections that opposite-sex couples are offered through marriage. Because there is a constitutional amendment in Montana barring marriage for same-sex couples, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking the protection of state-recognized domestic partnerships.
> With the recent formation of OutServe, the first-ever organization of actively serving gay troops, gay and lesbian service members are organizing themselves to help the Pentagon prepare for life after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to OutServe Co-Director JD Smith, “Active duty and reserve gay and lesbian troops have been critical to the nation’s defense, but almost completely absent from the conversation. We’re fixing that.” Smith, who goes by his initials in the interest of privacy and safety, says OutServe has expanded by word of mouth and Facebook since its formation as an underground network in October 2009. It now consists of approximately 450 gay and lesbian service members, including about two dozen deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
> Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation have filed suit against the State of Hawaii in the wake of Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto of House Bill 444, a measure that would have allowed unmarried couples to enter into civil unions with comprehensive state-recognized rights and responsibilities. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six same-sex couples, five from Oahu and one from Hawaii Island.
> Same-sex marriage advocates in New Jersey suffered a setback July 26 when the state Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by six gay couples seeking the right to marry. In 2006, the court ruled that the state must provide same-sex couples the same rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples, but left it up to the legislature to provide those rights. This led to the passage of a civil union law rather than full marriage rights, which advocates had pushed for. In last month’s ruling, the justices said the case needs to be re-filed in Superior Court — where it began eight years ago — and work its way back up, leaving open the possibility they could hear the case in the future.
> According to political blog Gay Politics (www.gaypolitics.com) Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a socially conservative Republican, has agreed to attend a Log Cabin Republicans event in Washington, D.C., planned for September. Cornyn told the Times Record News of Wichita Falls, Texas, that although he disagrees with LCR on numerous issues, “I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation.”
> Zimbabwe is in the midst of a constitutional reform process. While this might sound like human rights progress for the regressive African nation, political leaders’ public vows that there will be no rights for LGBT people written into the document reveals the sad truth. Speaking at a recent religious ceremony, Zimbabwe’s notoriously anti-gay President Robert Mugabe reiterated that gays will not be extended any legal protections and labeled homosexuality as worse than the behavior of dogs. : :