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April, 23, 2010

County forcibly separates elderly couple, sells all their possessions

Sebastopol, Calif.--Although they took many of the legal steps that gays and lesbians must do to protect their relationships, a trip to the hospital turned into a nightmare for an elderly couple, with one man dying alone and the other stripped of their home and all their possessions.

Sonoma County is facing a lawsuit over allegations that county workers ignored legal documents and the wishes of Clay Greene and Harold Scull, kept them separated, and sold off their property.

Greene, 78, and Scull, 88, had been together for 25 years when Scull fell down the stairs at their home in April of 2008.

Scull and Greene had powers of attorney for each other in case of incapacitation, but, according to the complaint, county workers ignored the documents.

County workers applied for conservatorship for Scull, then forced Greene into a nursing home, pointing to his mental state.

Over the next two months, the county seized and sold off the couple�s property, including memorabilia collected while Scull worked in Hollywood and Greene worked with television personalities, artwork that the men bought together, and their two cats. Their leased home, now empty, was returned to the landlord.

In the first phase of auctioning off the men�s property, the county seized nearly half a million dollars� worth of possessions.

Greene was kept against his will at Agua Caliente Village nursing home in Sonoma while his partner died in another facility, the name of which was withheld from Greene. He was only released from Agua Caliente after suing to get out of there.

Greene�s suit names the county, the nursing home and the auction company as defendants.

The complaint notes that county employees, walking through the house, noted the �desirability� and �quality� of the men�s belongings, according to the New York Times. The workers also told Greene to �Shut up and go to your room,� calling him a �lost cause� with �dementia.�

Greene also said that county employees expressed �displeasure at dealing with expressions of grief by a gay man who had lost his longtime partner,� with one telling another, �You know how those gay boys are.�

Scull�s injury came a month before the California Supreme Court�s ruling allowing same-sex marriage, and the brief six-month period in which same-sex marriage was legal in the state. However, the men had not registered as domestic partners, which was a viable option even before the decision.

Despite that, they had all the paperwork lawyers suggest to cement legal rights in relationships not afforded the full protections of marriage, including wills and powers of attorney for health care. But Greene says these were ignored by county employees.

The case is going to trial on July 16, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights� Elder Law Project, which is representing Greene.




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