At the same time my generally very positive daily attitude takes a brief holiday on "Tax Day" and this year was no exception. To me this day is the day where our Federal government forces me to tell a lie on my tax returns and require me to deny my very own legal status as a married individual and file as an individual. This costs my family several thousands of dollars -- money that should be put to use securing our futures so we do not become a burden on society. (Yes, I'm going somewhere with this!) It is a clear violation of the Constitution's equal protection and full faith and credit clauses. How easy it is now in the post 9/11 United States to strip the constitution when fear and hatred are in the mix. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy of a Conservative movement that constantly screams "State's Rights" while insisting just as forcefully that the Federal government ignore my completely legal married status? I'm quite sure that if you where forced by your government to deny your own marriage status you would be cranky too. Cranky would be an understatement if that were to cost you several thousands of dollars in taxes each year! So going into my week I was a bit "cranky".
Then I read about Harold and Clay. Upset doesn't even begin to explain the sick-to-my-stomach sorrow I felt after reading about their story. If you haven't heard about them yet I'm not surprised but I think you might be hearing more about them. You see, Harold was 88 and Clay was 77 and they had been together for 20 years when things turned bad for them and society revealed how hatred lack of compassion towards their relationship can turn to tragedy. Theirs is the tragic story of an old gay couple, their relationship to each other ignored and forced into separate nursing homes after the state forcibly sold off all of their possessions. The National Center for Lesbian Rights describes their ordeal:
Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.
One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.
Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.
What happened next is even more chilling: 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.
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.
Despite doing everything they were supposed to do legally, Harold and Clay were stripped of their human dignity and the protections that a relationship is supposed to give you in this world. That should scare everybody but sadly, I know it won't. Its not going to scare those people who have been conditioned to not think of Harold and Clay as real humans with the right to arrange their lives the way they wish. I'm quite sure that these types of things happen to old, straight couples too, even married ones, but I can't help but think about what it is that made it easy for people (such as the officials of Sonoma County) to ignore their humanity. They even ignored their legal arrangements. Just like that. Real legal arrangements nullified by hate. The answer is in front of us every day. Just turn on the TV, read the papers or browse the internet. In the guise of "acceptable opinion" we see polls from CNN asking if gays should be given hospital visitation rights. This of course implies that views in the negative are even acceptable! This is open for debate? I suppose it is better than when the BBC asked "should gays face execution" but you'll excuse me if I'm still a bit miffed that these sorts of things still get asked. Can you imagine the uproar if CNN ran a poll or had a guest on that asked its audience to consider whether the South should return to a slave economy during times of recession? I am being hyperbolic to make a point but trust me, I'm sure I could find people who seriously believe it should. You won't find Kyra Phillips bringing these etremists onto CNN to argue their point. Kyra did a segment recently on the effort in California to abolish an antiquated law that requires doctors to look into “the causes and cures of homosexuality.” She brought on Richard Cohen, a man kicked out of the American Counseling Association and whose views have been summarily dismissed by just about every established medical group . Yet even in her apology she misses the point. Some views just shouldn't be aired lest they give cover to those who seek to do harm to others by denying their basic humanity.
The debate itself is now toxic. Some opinions are just wrong and should not be up for debate. These issues take aim at our basic humanity and our right to pursue happiness in this world. I realize that most people reading this aren't in the same 'news bubble' I am and aren't paying much attention to whether or not Constance got to go to prom (she did but it was fake) , or whether or not gay people are being kicked out of the military (they still are), or whether gay citizens of Uganda are being put to death (not yet), or whether Arkansas will allow gay people to be adoptive parents (OF COURSE they should!), then think about the environment this debate creates and the cover it gives to those who would seek to hurt us. Is it any wonder that those who sought to deprive Harold and Clay their dignity in their final years thought it was ok?
Gosh, see what happens when I travel and I can't create in the kitchen? I promise I'll get back there soon but I just had something to get off my chest this morning so I appreciate your patience with my blog diversion. It felt good.