Civil Liberties

Cold and Cruel in Sonoma County


The National Center on Lesbian Rights points to a civil rights suit 77-year-old Clay Greene has filed against Sonoma County, California. According to the suit, when Harold, Greene's partner of 20 years, fell ill, the county refused to let Greene visit him in the hospital, despite the couple's meticulous efforts to name one another in their wills, powers of attorney, and medical directive documents. The county then went to court to argue that the local government should be given control of Harold's finances, which for 20 years had also been Greene's. (The county referred to Greene as a "roommate.")

Despite an unfavorable ruling, the county apparently auctioned off the couple's assets anyway. According to the lawsuit, the county then terminated the couple's lease, removed Greene from his home, and confined him to a nursing home against his will. Greene's partner died three months later. The two weren't allowed to meet during that three months. Greene has since been released from the nursing home, but says he has nothing left. The county took everything he has.

This of course is only one half of a lawsuit. But unless the claims that Greene and his partner had all their legal work in order are false—and that seems like something that would be too easy to prove for Greene's attorney to have exaggerated—Sonoma County's actions here are unspeakably cruel.

The county's treatment of Greene and his partner is being portrayed in the blogosphere as anti-gay bigotry, and that may well be true. But it also may be just another example of government abusing the elderly to get its hands on their stuff.