18 04 2010

If you were to read a news article about a government seizing a couple’s property against their wishes and in direct violation of valid powers-of-attorney and living wills, what country would first come to mind? Would it be the US?

Sonoma County, California did exactly this to an elderly gay couple when the older man, Harold Greene,  had to be taken to the hospital after a fall at home. The hospital and county case workers refused to allow his partner Clay in to see Harold. They absolutely refused to consider Clay as anything other than a room-mate, with no rights regarding Harold’s care. The county tried to get a court to rule that Harold had no family in order to gain access to Harold’s assets. When the judge denied their claim, the county went a step farther.

Without bothering to determine which man owned what or even the value of their combined assets, Sonoma County seized and auctioned off everything Harold and Clay owned. The county evicted Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will- choosing a different nursing home from Harold’s. The county terminated their lease on the house and returned it to their landlord.

Harold died alone in the nursing home a few months later, and his partner of twenty years was not permitted to visit him (family only, you know). All Clay has left is a scrapbook of pictures he and Harold had put together in the last year before he died.

I don’t care how you feel about homosexuals. Even the most rabid homophobe this side of Phredd Phelps should be up in arms over this case.  The fact that a government agency in this country can throw someone into a nursing home against their will, then auction off that person’s assets to pay for their care in direct violation of legal powers-of-attorney and valid living wills is such a gross travesty of justice that I find myself lacking the proper words to describe my outrage. Sonoma County appears to have willfully abrogated the rule of law in order to sentence two old men to spend their remaining lifetimes in nursing homes, then stole all of their belongings to pay for this act. It took legal action by his court-appointed attorneys to get Clay out of the nursing home. Despite his good health, he was now indigent, thanks to Sonoma County.

The laws in this country have been developed over centuries, stretching back beyond the founding of America to English Common Law. There is a mountain of case law throughout this period which holds that governments are bound by legal documents such as wills and powers-of-attorney. The fact that a local government can blithely set all that aside is monstrous. Revolutions have been started for acts such as this.

Clay has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Sonoma County, showing that he’s a far better man than I. He is demonstrating far more maturity than I possess at this action by the county government, and I am not even directly victimized by this. I say, directly victimized, because the entire body politic of the United States has been victimized by these byzantine excesses of local authority against a citizen. The preamble to the Constitution starts with We, the People. There is no mention of exceptions for homosexuals, ethnic minorities, speakers of foreign languages, left-handed people, or followers of one religion or another. We, the People of the United States, have suffered an injustice in the form of atrocious bad actions on the part of a county government against an innocent citizen.

Make ’em pay.

Current status: Speechless with rage

Current music: Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs