Elderly Gay Couple Forcibly Separated, Abused and Robbed

By county officials in California. This account is nothing less than horrifying and needs all the attention it can get.

I will quote it integrally.

This is shocking and outrageous:

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.

Clay is now suing the county, the auction company, and the nursing home. This story should get as much attention as Constance McMillen’s story. More attention. There should be protests outside the hospital and county administration buildings. And I think another phone call from the president is called for.

17 thoughts on “Elderly Gay Couple Forcibly Separated, Abused and Robbed

  1. Completely terrible story.

    from a comment in another discussion:

    You can submit comments about the case of Clay Greene and Harold Scull here:

    http://supervisors.sonoma-county.org/con…

    If they get a few dozen comments and people from out of the county express thoughts about not vacationing there or buying Sonoma County wines then maybe they will do something.

  2. This is horrible! And there I thought that California was ahead of other states in these kinds of things… Horrible!

    Here’s a Facebook page set up to demand justice. My guess is that letters to the Supervisors (see comment #1) are more effective, though. And letters to the media about their silence!

  3. This is truly horrifying and heartbreaking, the nightmare that I’m sure all gay and lesbian couples fear. Nothing can restore what has been lost from Clay’s life, but I hope his lawsuit will stop such outrages in the future.

    As much as this an issue of civil rights for gays and lesbians, I think it would be also wise if also presented as a mainstream one. It could happen to any couple, married or not, gay/lesbian or not, though certainly far less likely to a heterosexual married couple. The state has no right to dictate people’s lives in this way.

    And the people who did this should be fired or turned out of office asap.

    Jonathan Campbell

  4. This sounds like a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No human being should be treated this way. Were they being punished because they were a gay couple!!!!!! They were/are still human. This kind of abuse must cease!

  5. After reading about this issue, I emailed Sonoma County about how I disagreed with how they handled the Harold-Clay situation. I was very surprised when I received this emailed reply:

    “Thank you for your email regarding the Harold Scull and Clay Greene matter involving the Sonoma County Public Guardian’s Office. We appreciate the concern that has been expressed by the comments received and know that when the full facts are able to be revealed there will be a better understanding. It is the policy of this department not to disclose confidential matters concerning clients assisted by the agencies operating under its direction. This is consistent with federal and state privacy laws.

    “What can be legally shared at this point is as follows: The Sonoma County Public Guardian became involved in this matter as a result of a report from Harold Scull that Clay Greene had physically assaulted him, resulting in Mr. Scull’s hospitalization. Mr. Greene’s domestic violence against Mr. Scull has been independently verified during the course of litigation, including reports of witnesses who tended to Mr. Scull following his hospitalization. While criminal charges were not filed, that does not mean there was no domestic violence. In order to file criminal charges, there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard known in the law.

    “Recent online commentary reflects a distorted presentation of the underlying facts. The County is confident that when the full facts can be discussed they will show the individuals involved received appropriate services. More importantly, we are confident that the facts will show that the services received by Mr. Scull and Mr. Greene reflect the ongoing commitment to protect vulnerable citizens from harm and that no issues of discrimination were present.

    “Unfortunately, it appears the Plaintiffs are trying to litigate this case through the internet and the press – trying to spin the case as one of insensitivity towards people who happen to be gay by County Staff. In fact, this case is really about domestic violence and the statutory obligation the County has to protect vulnerable individuals from abuse and harm.

    “The heart of this case is protecting an elder victim of domestic violence. That’s why the Public Guardian’s Office took the actions it did. The County has a long history of taking a strong stand against domestic violence no matter who is the victim.

    “Very truly yours,

    Joshua A. Myers
    Deputy County Counsel
    Sonoma County Counsel’s Office
    575 Administration Drive, Suite 105A
    Santa Rosa, California 95403”

    It seems the case is more complicated than it was first presented to be.

  6. Thanks for sharing the above, Maidenvoyage. There’s a lot about this case that is odd. Why was Clay confined to a nursing home against his will? Why was the lease terminated? Why were their possessions auctioned off? Those actions aren’t explained by the claim that Clay was violent towards Harold. I await more information…

  7. Maidenvoyage, good on you for following up!
    Monkey, I totally agree.
    2 more points: (1) I’m not sure the concern is that the people involved targeted them because they were gay; rather, it may be (and will be for some of us) that the medical/social services can be paternalistic and overreaching, and that gay people have fewer protections, even when they have power of attorney, etc. Women in delivery rooms and the mental ill may face the same thing. No doubt there are others who are especially vulnerable.
    (2) There’s a passage I find especially worrying. On some of the internet it is said that Harold had some dementia. In addition, moving an 88 year old man into a radically different environment can make him quite confused, as the hospital staff in Seattle explained to me. There are terrifying movie plots where just one wrong thing is said and a number of people’s lives are ruined. It’s too easy to think about that when one reads this passage:

    The Sonoma County Public Guardian became involved in this matter as a result of a report from Harold Scull that Clay Greene had physically assaulted him, resulting in Mr. Scull’s hospitalization. Mr. Greene’s domestic violence against Mr. Scull has been independently verified during the course of litigation, including reports of witnesses who tended to Mr. Scull following his hospitalization. While criminal charges were not filed, that does not mean there was no domestic violence. In order to file criminal charges, there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard known in the law.

  8. hmm. my grandfather, who suffered dementia, was cared for in his home by my grandmother and hired nursing staff until he died. he used to tell the nurses that my grandmother was holding him captive and beating him. (not true, btw.) and he used to tell others that the nurses were holding him captive and beating him. -but surely, hospital folk know that this happens w dementia. surely they have some sort of physical evidence or something. something beyond what he’s said.

  9. elp, I bet there was enough for them to claim they had evidence: if he had fallen down some steps, there’d be bruises. And perhaps he had fallen down other times.

    They are clear they don’t have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. In my experience with my elderly father (about 89 at the time), the doctors’ attitude was that he just wasn’t spending a lot of time and money on. They were making snap decisions based on inadequate evidence.

  10. This is about preventing domestic violence, not gay rights or discrimination. You’ve all been taken advantage of by an overzealous reporter looking for a promotion.

  11. None of us know all the facts. Domestic violence is a serious charge. Harold is no longer with us to confirm or deny it. Did he leave any written or recorded statements claiming domestic violence? Were Harold’s wishes respected? Or were his rights violated?

    If Clay pushed Harold down the stairs and he later died as a result of it, isn’t that a homicide? Shouldn’t the police have made an in-depth investigation and found out the facts?

    In my experience, government agencies charged with protecting abuse victims generally do the opposite. This reminds me of various family services/child protection agencies who only take away children who AREN’T being abused and leave the abused ones in hell.

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