Eminent Domain over your life
April 18, 2010 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Sonoma County CA separates elderly gay couple and sells all of their worldly possessions. 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 National Center for Lesbian Rights Elder Law Project, with important information about a group sometimes forgotten about in the struggle for gay rights.
posted by Saxon Kane (98 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sounds terrible. I can't find much more information about this story - it seems pretty new. I found this post at Gay Family Values with a little more context and similar examples. Sometimes reading Metafilter can make me tired...
posted by dammitjim at 12:25 PM on April 18, 2010


This is incredible. I'd be outraged and blindingly angry if this happened to a couple, any couple, that didn't have the necessary paperwork in place. These guys did, well and truly, several times over, and yet were treated so consistently inhumanely, almost decidedly punished, and for what? Being gay and having the temerity to want to be treated like a human being? And this is one of the supposedly more liberal states in what I am repeatedly told to look up to as a beacon of freedom and hope in the world?

For shame. Words cannot encapsulate how pathetic this is, and how angry it makes me.
posted by Dysk at 12:29 PM on April 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


I really don't understand how this can happen. What is going on in their heads? "Oh, my boss will really be on my ass if we let these two old gentlemen see each other! Oh the negative publicity we'll get! They have what? Legal paperwork stating what we should do? What's that?" I don't understand. I can't even read the whole article.
posted by amethysts at 12:34 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Proposition 8 supporters are cheering!!!
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:36 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This does seem to be a terrible injustice but I am pretty confused by what happened and why. I don't understand how all these things could have happened within three months of Harold going to the hospital, even if the two of them had really just been roommates.
posted by XMLicious at 12:38 PM on April 18, 2010


I'm gay, and gay-married, *and* we're registered domestic partners (happened before the gay marriage thing was a possibility) *and* we have all the correct bits and pieces of paper *and* we live in a state (California, like these men) where having all of these things is supposed to mean I don't have to have some part of me that's breathless with terror that this could happen to us.

This feeling of helpless terror is a constant reminder that I'm a second-class citizen whose legally recorded wishes don't mean shit. It's a terrible, terrible feeling.
posted by rtha at 12:39 PM on April 18, 2010 [105 favorites]


This feeling of helpless terror is a constant reminder that I'm a second-class citizen whose legally recorded wishes don't mean shit. It's a terrible, terrible feeling.

Ditto.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is so horrible.

I hope this goes beyond just the anger-of-the-moment FB linking and some justice is found so this doesn't happen again.

.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 12:47 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it's kind of selfish to think this way, but as I read that article, I kept picturing my own future. Jesus fucking christ, people are so goddamn awful and mean when they don't have to be.

.
posted by treepour at 1:01 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no hell too black, too hot, too deep.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:06 PM on April 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


My lawyer in SF is excellent for these type of contracts - i work with him for IP related stuff (he does corporate as well). He's based right at the big intersection in Castro and a really patient, detail oriented, client centric guy to work with. He also wrote the book.
posted by infini at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Massachuetts*: Our people may be ugly and our weather shit, but at least we won't do THIS to you.

*If not applicable, insert Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, or Washington, D.C. here
posted by oinopaponton at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2010


this is one of the supposedly more liberal states

Non-urban California is another world entirely. It might as well be rural Texas. I have friends who essentially abandoned a house once they'd paid the mortgage because they couldn't stand Mariposa County one more year.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:09 PM on April 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


had their legal paperwork in place--wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other

The thing is, whether or not you're gay, this should scare the shit out of everyone. Powers of attorney is not something that you can only give a spouse or blood relative. If you are heterosexual and married, you may have given powers of attorney to someone other than your wife in the event that both you and your wife are incapacitated simultaneously. Maybe you gave them to your best friend, Joe Schmoe. But then some hospital administrator says that your parents will be the ones to make any decisions, have access to your medical conditions, your finances, etc.

I hope there are lawsuits, state sanctions, punitive fines, firings where appropriate, and better training for everyone who is in a position to deny a patient's rights to determine who can make decisions on their behalf.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on April 18, 2010 [42 favorites]


Non-urban California is another world entirely. It might as well be rural Texas.

As backwards as some parts of inland California can be, somehow one doesn't think of things like that happening in Sonoma, which is an utterly different place from a backwater like Mariposa County. Sonoma's a county of almost 500,000 people, on the coast, votes strongly Democratic, and is part of the metropolitan Bay Area. I guess just because the county itself is progressive, though, doesn't mean that it's social services bureaucracy is.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:26 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Non-urban California is another world entirely. It might as well be rural Texas. I have friends who essentially abandoned a house once they'd paid the mortgage because they couldn't stand Mariposa County one more year.

Dude, Sonoma County is so much more like SF than Mariposa it's absurd.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:33 PM on April 18, 2010


aaaaaand on preview, what trees said.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:33 PM on April 18, 2010


My heart hurts not just for these men, but for everyone we're denying rights to. This just isn't right, and the terror of it robs the world of a little humanity and beauty. My heart hurts.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:38 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by HyperBlue at 1:45 PM on April 18, 2010


The FPP is inadequate to guage the particulars but suffice to say that this atrocity occurs so frequently as to be the subject of thousands and thousands of posts identical to this, all of which tell the story of normal people being exploited in United States on the basis of their not being what is legislated as "straight".

If you ever wondered where you would have stood when Martin Luther King Jr marched on Washington, just look at where you are standing while your neighbors, relatives, co-workers, comrades, and peers are systematically having their lives ripped away.

Flinch a little? You fail.

Here's how to make up for it. Give money, call a representive, stop the telling of a disparaging joke. Or be my personal hero and stand up to a bully.

I don't know the particulars of this situation but trust me all of us know someone who is suffering from this institutionalized bigotry. If you don't think you do, you may want to check to make certain that by not being part of the solution you are being part of the problem.

The word on the street I hear is simple. It's EQUALITY NOW.
posted by humannaire at 1:47 PM on April 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


stoneweaver, I read this sentence somewhere that I use to describe the same feeling

there's a hole in my soul and all the beauty is leaking out
posted by infini at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is the point of this kind of shit? Who wins here? I just don't get why this kind of thing has to happen ever, at all. Christ.
posted by nola at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sonoma County is so much more like SF

So that's why these guys were treated so respectfully. I wondered.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:14 PM on April 18, 2010


This happened to Alice B. Toklas after Gertrude Stein died, except it was Stein's family that came in and took everything, including things that could be documented as Toklas' own property, ignoring everything that Stein had put in writing for her estate. (I say in writing because I can't remember whether she had it legally documented or not.) Were it not for friends looking after her at the end of her life she very well could have ended up on the street. These two were one of the most documented couples of the time period and the life they had together was just swept up and taken with no recourse really available.

Where is progress?
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 2:19 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


This makes just makes me so angry. Hopefully there'll be a follow up post in July where I can read about the county and nursing home getting the shit sued out of them.
posted by kylej at 2:21 PM on April 18, 2010


Dear Society,

Fuck you all.

Coldest Regards,
LOHK
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only good news about this is that if the facts are correct, then the county is in violation at minimum of California Probate Code Sections 4740-4743, and I'd guess quite a bit more. So they're going to loose in court, which might prevent it from happening again. Here's hoping the judgment against the county is painful enough that they learn a lesson and serve as a cautionary example.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:37 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow... I just broke a supernumerary cusp off a molar grinding my teeth in anger at this.

This tiny white lump of enamel doesn't do justice to how angry this makes me. The gears best be turning to bring a full formed legal sledge hammer of justice down upon this county and all individuals involved.

.
posted by strixus at 3:09 PM on April 18, 2010


I'm surprised this happened in sonoma, although having dealt with the county I shouldn't be. They are a bunch of knuckleheads, to put it mildly.. If this goes to court locally I think the county will lose on a second. It's a very gay friendly are!.
posted by fshgrl at 3:19 PM on April 18, 2010


So that's why these guys were treated so respectfully. I wondered.

Well, that's just the thing, isn't it? Things like this can still happen even happen in nice, liberal places like Sonoma where two-thirds of the vote was against Proposition 8.

Trying to paint it with the same brush as a place like Mariposa, which has one-twentieth of the population density, is so rural there's not a traffic light in the county, and hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since LBJ might be comforting, but the truth is we haven't come nearly far enough that things like this only happen in places like Mariposa.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:58 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Clay's legal team is getting assistance from The National Center for Lesbian Rights. Donation link is here.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:59 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sometimes think that much of the loafer lift, sunshiny pop sheen, and easy-going super-helpful friendly gal-palishness that people associate with popular faggotry is actually an internal psychological defense mechanism that keeps us queer folks from going all Unabomber bug-nuts insane with a Swarovski-encrusted Freddy Kreuger glove, a pink AK47, and a crate of designer dynamite at a Nascar race whenever we hear this kind of story for the hundredth time.

You'd hope there'd be justice, and a payback, and there never is. Hell, most Americans still think Reagan was a funny old man and a decent president instead of the guy who presided over the single worst case of negligent genocide in American history.

You'd hope straight people would hear about these things and be so outraged that they'd, you know, sit down and write a letter to their senator, but they don't. They get mad, they mean to do something, but the letters don't get written, the outrage fizzles as soon as something shiny draws away their attention. I'm probably being cynical, but this kind of thing takes me there. I've heard these stories over and over, but haven't heard very many follow-ups where the offenders get what's coming to them.

No one learns, but tomorrow's another day. I've got a little faith left for the future. There's a whole generation who will change the world almost overnight because the successors to the current elder generation of dimwitted religious idiots won't be able to articulate a compelling argument for their stupid-ass bigotry when the kids can look to a million object lessons in how absurd that brand of institutional prejudice is, and who it hurts, and that it does hurt, and hurts bad. They've been so successful in creating a legion of direct successors who buy their "it's true because I say it is" line and reject things like book-learnin' and worldly wisdom that they're going to completely fall apart when they have to explain why they believe the idiotic things they believe.

Right now, well, I suspect it's not going to get better for a while yet.

Right now—well, fuck it.

I'm going to buy some cute shoes and not punch a "conservative" in the face.

Composure, darlings—composure.
posted by sonascope at 4:00 PM on April 18, 2010 [22 favorites]


If you want to do something, call your local state representatives. And I do mean call. Having been rather involved in the political process, I can assure you that e-mails mean nothing. Letters are slightly better. Phone calls work. So, call the people who make a difference in getting laws passed in your state. Call them and tell them you support equal rights and that you base your vote on it. That last part is really important. Democrats, by and large, aren't worried about losing left leaning voters because the alternative is always worse. Let them know that you mean business, and you will vote in primary elections based on equal rights.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:08 PM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


sonascope, as a queer man, let me assure you that if I ever do snap, my AK-47 will be made of plain wood and black metal, my dynamite will have cost ten cents, and I won't be wearing gloves of any description, certainly not the one you provide.
posted by Dysk at 4:13 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Y'know, I figure that a county government would have, I don't know important shit to do, rather than ruin up the lives of two old men. Some people have fucked up priorities.
posted by jonmc at 4:19 PM on April 18, 2010


Anyone who assumes that, oh, gays folks should be satisfied with domestic partnership rights or just being accepted by society in their day-to-day lives and so cannot understand why gay folks are still fighting for the right to marry and the right to be seen as equal to straights under the law needs to hear stories like these.
posted by Never teh Bride at 4:27 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is all so one-sided. It reeks of demagoguery. Are any other perspectives available?

"The county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will."

This is an incredibly serious accusation. I believe the charge is "false imprisonment." The seriousness of this charge, combined with the off-hand way it's mentioned, make me think there's more to this story. Was Clay suffering from dementia, and judged a poor historian?

If, as humannaire says, there are "thousands and thousands" of similar incidents, you would think that we'd be seeing links to stories where there was a clear case of discrimination based on sexual orientation, rather than this one, where it seems that discrimination based on age played a much larger part.
posted by nathan v at 4:34 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the late 1700s / early 1800s the argument for slavery was that it was a necessary evil. Over time this changed to a positive good, that it was morally required and that people who thought different were immoral.

Is this kind of the thing happening to the anti-mariage equality movement? Is the attack no longer about the institution of marriage, but against the rights that marriage affords? Because if you have a bunch of legal instruments that can serve a similar purpose, you get to a point where you have to wonder what the big deal with calling it marriage is in the first place. But if you change your thinking, and you no longer think people deserve the rights in the first place, regardless of what legal paperwork they file, you start to loose some of that cognitive-dissonance. But it's more likely that that's what they were thinking all along.
posted by ifandonlyif at 4:46 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


And in the eyes of the truly evil, this is justice.
posted by kafziel at 5:27 PM on April 18, 2010


I was raised in rural Texas, in one of those environments where everyone was Republican, everyone was a conservative Christian, and everyone knew that homosexuals were perverts who had willfully chosen to live a life in defiance of the will of God. And I absorbed all those ideas.

As I got older and went to college, I started to moderate in my views somewhat, but I didn't bother thinking about homosexuality for a long time. I didn't know anyone who was openly gay, and nothing really prompted me to sit down and re-examine my beliefs in that area. I didn't expend any efforts to actively oppose gay rights, and when I entered ministry I never preached a sermon against homosexuality. It just wasn't on my radar at all as something I needed to deal with.

Until one day when I read an article a lot like this one, about two elderly gay ranchers in Oklahoma. Their names were Sam and Earl--good Oklahoma cowboy names. Their relationship was an open secret in the community, and for the most part they were able to live peaceful lives, working their ranch together and raising Sam's boys from a prior marriage. Earl's parents were supportive of the relationship, but the rest of his family was embarrassed by their relationship and had cut themselves off from the couple. Things were working out well, until Earl fell critically ill, and died of cancer. Making things even more tragic, the ranch they had worked together for decades was held in Earl's name alone, and even though it was certainly his desire that Sam inherit it, the family contested the will--there was only one witness signature and Oklahoma requires two. The family won and Sam was left both bereaved and homeless. He had worked that ranch with Earl for 24 years. Of course, if they had been married, Earl's possessions would have automatically gone to Sam, but that wasn't--and isn't--possible in Oklahoma.

I remember turning to my wife and telling her the story I had just read. When I recounted the whole thing, I said, "I'm not prepared today to say that their relationship was right or healthy or appropriate, but one thing's certain--it was real. They had a real love relationship together, and nothing good comes of failing to recognize that, and treat it as such." While I still needed to work through the issue personally and theologically (and, in a lot of ways, I'm still learning and developing in those areas), my stance on gay rights as a political and civil rights issue had coalesced by the time I read the last word of that article. There is no compelling reason not to legally recognize the relationships that people freely form. Whatever my personal views, in the eyes of the law the rights and privileges of this relationship ought to be secured and protected. And I would hope that even the most ardent fundamentalists would be able to stop and ask themselves, "It is just for the family that despised Earl to inherit the ranch he and Sam built together? Is it fair to make a life with someone for two and a half decades and then be tossed out into the street while people who hated the man you loved move into your home?" Those don't seem like hard questions to me. I was hit over the head with the essential unfairness of it all, and joined the pro-gay-marriage side ever after.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:48 PM on April 18, 2010 [86 favorites]


This is all so one-sided. It reeks of demagoguery. Are any other perspectives available?

It's convenient to believe that it's "one-sided" and "demagoguery" as well, especially since no "other side" is presented. But it's not. This instance is pretty egregious. So is this one, which happened at Jackson Memorial in Broward County, supposedly another "liberal" place (so much more like SF than Mariposa County! Dude!). So are hundreds or thousands of others that never get reported in newspaper articles or on blogs.

I can hope that Obama's recent memorandum helps change things, but that's a slim hope, especially since the closing words of the memorandum are that "This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person."
posted by blucevalo at 5:51 PM on April 18, 2010


Just like the ongoing catholic church scandal, this is yet another consequence of our society's blind respect for religion. I hope the Prop. 8 supporters are happy
posted by MattMangels at 5:54 PM on April 18, 2010


And I would hope that even the most ardent fundamentalists would be able to stop and ask themselves, "It is just for the family that despised Earl to inherit the ranch he and Sam built together? Is it fair to make a life with someone for two and a half decades and then be tossed out into the street while people who hated the man you loved move into your home?"

Speaking as someone who is partnered with someone who has fundamentalist parents who live in Oklahoma, I can assert categorically that his parents would never ask themselves those questions -- they'd never even think that those questions were logical questions to consider. And that's the terror that I have in the back of my mind every day of our lives together.
posted by blucevalo at 5:54 PM on April 18, 2010


"It's convenient to believe that it's 'one-sided" and "demagoguery' as well, especially since no 'other side' is presented."

Well, I don't know what's convenient about it. But it's certainly easy to believe that there's probably more to the story.


"But it's not."

Okay. Sounds like you know something about it that I wasn't able to figure out from the links, or from a little bit of snooping (only one link with their names on Google news!) Is that the case? I'd love to hear more.

Yeah, it's a shame that, because discrimination based on sexual orientation was legal, the courts didn't even consider, for example, whether Jackson Health's denial that sexual orientation had anything to do with Ms. Langbehn's visitation rights (from your link).

I don't think the fact of that injustice means that I ought to suspend my critical judgment of the portrayal of these cases, that exist in a context where bad press can be used as leverage for the settlement of pending litigation, a context where the events can be used for political and monetary gain. And it disturbs me that others seem to be suspending their own judgment.
posted by nathan v at 6:43 PM on April 18, 2010


It really is terrible. I remember when gay marriage became legal in Canada and the (thankfully smaller) voices of conservative groups rose up briefly. Now that we've had gay marriage legalised for years - and our society seems to be holding it together - you don't hear any political party talking about repealing it. I'm hoping that provides the needed protection for gay couples here, heaven knows without it they'd be just as vunerable.

It is my fervent wish that those of you who have to live in fear & anger at being treated as 2nd class citizens will soon be able to marry with the full rights and entitlements that heterosexual couples have. Can't happen too soon.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:42 PM on April 18, 2010


Speaking as someone who is partnered with someone who has fundamentalist parents who live in Oklahoma, I can assert categorically that his parents would never ask themselves those questions -- they'd never even think that those questions were logical questions to consider.

Which is why I think it's too bad Pater Aletheias is no longer in the preaching game.
posted by stet at 7:49 PM on April 18, 2010


You know, when the Sharon Kowalski case was still being decided, I at least had the knowledge that if something like that happened to me, I had some family members would make sure the right thing happened.

But this ... there is no protection against that kind of illegal behavior on the part of the government. What the hell do you do to prevent that kind of thing from happening?

Thank God I live in a pro-marriage pro-family state that has marriage equality.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:51 PM on April 18, 2010


I don't think the fact of that injustice means that I ought to suspend my critical judgment of the portrayal of these cases, that exist in a context where bad press can be used as leverage for the settlement of pending litigation, a context where the events can be used for political and monetary gain. And it disturbs me that others seem to be suspending their own judgment.

Yes, you're right. It's disturbing. I should have known better than to view an injustice as an injustice and not in its proper context -- as an opportunity for the shameless assertion of victim entitlement and the perpetuation of mercenary tortious behavior.

from a little bit of snooping (only one link with their names on Google news!)

The event occurred in February 2007 and would not be replete with Google News links in April 2010.
posted by blucevalo at 8:30 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd really like to see some more documentation about this. Ignore the lead of this story and you've still got a supposedly healthy 77-year-old being committed *against his will* to a retirement facility and his possessions auctioned off.

I expected to read in the last paragraph that they'd taken the living dude's kidneys for research.

Can someone post some supporting documentation?
posted by bpm140 at 8:38 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this kind of the thing happening to the anti-mariage equality movement? Is the attack no longer about the institution of marriage, but against the rights that marriage affords?

Virginia - where my partner's parents live, and which we visit a couple of times a year or so, has an awesome hamburger anti-gay marriage law on the books, which says "A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage is prohibited." It goes on to add that any such union, contract or arrangement entered into in any other state, "and any contractual rights created thereby," are "void and unenforceable in Virginia." cite

What's that, you say? A contract made by two consenting adults is void an unenforceable if it bestows marriage-like privileges on the other person? Yes. You read that right.

Smaller government is really terrific, don't you think? Isn't it great how the Commonwealth of Virginia butts out of the lives of its citizens and visitors?
posted by rtha at 9:45 PM on April 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have some qualms over going all outragey over this because I know something of how it works for anyone seeking county care. A relative is a social worker and there was a case of a couple who both abruptly fell from sufficiency to dementia and incapacity, and needed emergency placement and care. It simply was impossible to put them both in the same facility, because one was near death and needed skilled nursing and the other was stable enough for assisted living in a memory care facility once diabetes medication was restarted. The sicker one did die without seeing the spouse ever again, unfortunately.

As to possessions, there was a need to pay for the care received and there are exemptions to some degree but not for everything. I know my county doesn't do this even as well as the rest of the state, but I know that in the case I'm alluding to, there was much haggling over who had what directive and what legal authority was vested in whom. Things needed to be done long before anyone felt empowered to act. There were adult children who refused to get involved, or were logistically unable to, which did not help the situation.

The key lesson for anyone here is not just wills and advance directives but proper trust documents with other means of avoiding probate and paid-up long term care insurance. I can't say for certain that this would have prevented what happened here, but it may have eased the trauma somewhat.

I'm really, really astonished that there were powers of attorney that were ignored. If true, that violates so many laws and policies it's ridiculous. Anyone can be a power of attorney. Sometimes it's a bank, or a non-profit.
posted by dhartung at 11:01 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Reading stories like this makes me want to commit violence. The number of lives people like this twist, harm, ruin, and destroy is much, much higher than the number of lives taken by murderers and terrorists.

People who abuse their authority deserve to be punished. From the mean-spirited middle school principal on up to the Secretary of Defense. You are put in that position to serve your charges. If you harm them, you deserve to be harmed tenfold in return.

It's a shame I'm an atheist, secular materialist. Otherwise, I'd at least be comforted by the thought that these people would burn in hell. Sadly, I'm left with the vain hope that they're punished adequately in this life. But who knows, perhaps they'll die in a structure fire.

Just like the ongoing catholic church scandal, this is yet another consequence of our society's blind respect for religion.

This is pretty much my feeling on the matter.

I don't know what the solution is, though. They can't be reasoned with. Their worldview simply does not admit anything like logic. They can't be discriminated against, thanks to all the various equal rights legislation in effect. And frankly a pogrom would leave such an indelible black mark on our collective moral compass as to be worse than the existing problem.

Furthermore, another problem is that most of the religious are not so actively malevolent. Their collective actions result in much suffering, but no individual is really guilty of anything more than gullibility and irrationality. In fact, some creeds are relatively positive. I'd feel much worse denying a Quaker a job than I would an Assembler of God, given that the Quaker and I probably see eye-to-eye on most things except the aforementioned fantasies of violence. And yet, objectively, they're just as irrational as any dominionist.

What I'd really like to see (which will never happen) is a Supreme Court ruling stating that the Establishment Clause of the constitution actually means that anyone professing religious beliefs is barred from office. If you aren't a secular humanist, you're unfit for public office.
posted by Netzapper at 11:27 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course it won't happen, because that is manifestly not what the Establishment clause says or means. Such a ruling would be patently wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Netzapper: What I'd really like to see (which will never happen) is a Supreme Court ruling stating that the Establishment Clause of the constitution actually means that anyone professing religious beliefs is barred from office. If you aren't a secular humanist, you're unfit for public office.

There is nobody who doesn't hold religious beliefs. Secular humanism falls into that category for me, at least in the context you provide. There is, at its heart, an unjustified belief (unjustifiable, in fact - one must start from axioms which can be either agreed or disagreed with - they can be the intrinsic value of human life, some bearded fellow in the sky, or Lord Xenu. They're all assumptions.)

The idea that religious organisations or religious people cannot be argued with is also virtually offensive. I'm a queer son of a preacherman from a Christian country (with a state Church) that also happened to be the first state in the world to allow civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The Church's official policy is supportive of homosexuals being members of the Church, and civil unions are blessed in a marriage-like ceremony (same way civil unions that then want a Church service are handled for straight couples).

Fundamentalism can lead to evil, without doubt. Fundamentalism, however, is not equal to religion (and does not need to be of a religious nature to be harmful).
posted by Dysk at 11:43 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having lived a couple years in Sonoma county in the 90s, I don't find this surprising at all because the old part of the county is fundamentally redneck.

Sure there were a bunch of liberals living in the bedroom communities, but they really seemed to regard their houses merely as investments and places to hang their coats while they spend all their waking hours in Napa and San Francisco. All that is completely separate from the country towns that the beroom communities arw next to. The people who live and work in Sonoma are pretty much as rural as it gets- we're talking biker bar and "Real Food" resteraunt country here. There has to be resentment of the commuters from the natives, so I can easily see the local government leaping at the chance to screw over someone who represents the "city folk".

Which is not to say that this makes the people any less a bunch of motherfuckers. But at least I think I know what kind of motherfuckers they are.
posted by happyroach at 12:17 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is nobody who doesn't hold religious beliefs. Secular humanism falls into that category for me, at least in the context you provide. There is, at its heart, an unjustified belief (unjustifiable, in fact - one must start from axioms which can be either agreed or disagreed with - they can be the intrinsic value of human life, some bearded fellow in the sky, or Lord Xenu. They're all assumptions.)

Eh, you can build a pretty coherent system from a utilitarian framework optimizing lack of suffering. In fact, this is precisely what I've done. I don't believe it's axiomatic, even--although, I suppose, you could call my acceptance of human experience an axiom. But, I'll concede the point that belief of absence is a belief.

Perhaps I should be more precise in defining my objection to belief in supernaturally ordained behavior. If you can build your system of morality from observable, repeatable phenomena, then I have no objection to it.

The idea that religious organisations or religious people cannot be argued with is also virtually offensive.

It's certainly your right to be offended. The offense cuts both ways, I do assure you. For instance, I was offended today by the pictures of aborted fetuses held aloft by disingenuous anti-abortionists near my hobby store. [Disingenuous because they depict the results of a procedure already banned, but equated to all abortion.]

But the issue that I was referring to, as well as the earlier commenter, is that in the United States of America, there is a kind of tacit agreement that religious views are unassailable. It's considered the height of rudeness here to say to someone, "Your religious views make absolutely no sense, and they're hurting this community and the country." Seriously the height of transgression; people uninvolved in the conversation will leap in to inform you that you've committed a sin. You're on safer ground arguing racial superiority in mixed company.

As an example, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions or any blood products. They (generally) extend this to their children as well. So, a Witness will let a child bleed to death, giving only saline bolus, instead of allowing a transfusion. This is protected by law in most jurisdictions here.

What's more troublesome for some of us, however, is that any suggestion that it not be protected by law is immediately shouted down as a transgression against some fundamental human right. While I'm of mixed opinion on whether or not the right to refuse children's treatment is desirable, the fact that the conversation cannot be had because of "religious freedom" rubs many of us the wrong way.

Fundamentalism can lead to evil, without doubt. Fundamentalism, however, is not equal to religion (and does not need to be of a religious nature to be harmful).

Fundamentalism of course is not identical to religion. And most forms of non-fundamentalist religion are pretty innocuous. But they're innocuous specifically because they abandon any attempt to control the behavior of non-believers, as well as abandoning any attempt to recruit new believers.

Furthermore, the least innocuous churches are precisely those whose beliefs change with the times. Your pro-gay state church, I promise you, persecuted gays five hundred years ago. They've abandoned that article of their faith. My contention is that each time a church abandons some worldly article of their faith, they get better. Ergo, a church without any articles of faith concerning the operations of this world is the best.
posted by Netzapper at 12:25 AM on April 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I should add that this American unassailability of religious belief does not extend to the beliefs of atheists or agnostics. I spent most of high school with my peers attempting to convert me on a daily basis. Meanwhile, I was sent to the principals office as "religiously insensitive" for suggesting that they were incorrect.

In America, you're allowed to believe in any god you like... just so long as you believe in one.
posted by Netzapper at 12:41 AM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Netzapper: Ergo, a church without any articles of faith concerning the operations of this world is the best.

I wouldn't quite put it that way, but I agree - an organisation centred around a set of beliefs that basically amount to acceptance ought to accept that there are any number of ways for people to lead their lives, and should thus make no effort to constrain people's lifestyles.


Furthermore, the least innocuous churches are precisely those whose beliefs change with the times. Your pro-gay state church, I promise you, persecuted gays five hundred years ago. They've abandoned that article of faith.


It's probably not a popular opinion with many of the people who bother you, but I'd contend that that was never and article of faith, per se, but rather a reflection of temporal societal norms, and that to a great extent, the moral teachings of the Church merely reflect those prevalent in society (or a segment thereof.) 500 years ago virtually all of society persecuted homosexuals. That's changed slowly with time. Incidentally, the Church's policy (which, admittedly, any individual vicar is free to disagree with, and they have autonomy to refer people to another vicar if their conscience gets in the way - this goes for anything, from remarrying divorcees to counselling. It's very frowned upon, however) only changed from not having a stance on homosexuality (implicit acceptance) to outright support. There has not been a long history of religious intolerance in Denmark, generally.

As an example, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions or any blood products. They (generally) extend this to their children as well. So, a Witness will let a child bleed to death, giving only saline bolus, instead of allowing a transfusion. This is protected by law in most jurisdictions here.

There's a nurse who works in a blood disease department at a Danish hospital in my family, and the way this is handled there is that guardianship of the child is temporarily transferred to the doctor or hospital, the transfusion administered while the child is legally under their care, and then guardianship is returned to the parents. This way the parents don't have to break religious law by authorising a transfusion, and the doctor's don't have to break the Hippocratic oath by withholding treatment from someone who may desire it. The kids generally live, too. As far as I understand it, this is not a choice the parents have (that would negate the benefit to the parent, to an extent, as well) and the law is not particularly controversial, despite a sizeable community of Jehovah's Witnesses.

It's certainly your right to be offended. The offense cuts both ways, I do assure you. For instance, I was offended today by the pictures of aborted fetuses held aloft by disingenuous anti-abortionists near my hobby store. [Disingenuous because they depict the results of a procedure already banned, but equated to all abortion.]

The rational response to fundamentalist bigotry is not fundamentalist bigotry. Chastise the bigots without lumping everyone else with a religious affiliation into the same category - after all, that's exactly the type of straw man argument you're railing against.

Eh, you can build a pretty coherent system from a utilitarian framework optimizing lack of suffering. In fact, this is precisely what I've done. I don't believe it's axiomatic, even--although, I suppose, you could call my acceptance of human experience an axiom. But, I'll concede the point that belief of absence is a belief.

There are a bunch of implicit assumptions here that you're not acknowledging: that suffering is 'bad', that utilitarian ethics are more valid than any other system of ethics (Kantian, virtue-based, etc.), that human life has intrinsic value, &c. I'm not saying I disagree with these assumptions, but we must recognise that they are just that, and as a result are psuedo-religious beliefs. Certainly, while it may seem counter-intuitive, they are not strictly rational.
posted by Dysk at 1:29 AM on April 19, 2010


To clarify - many things that change within the Church's social attitude do not reflect the Church abandoning articles of faith, so much as reading the texts in a way that leads to a different interpretation or conclusion. Nobody with a grounding in modern theological thought would argue that one reading is more intrinsically 'correct' than another, and as a result, from the subjective viewpoint of the modern liberal Christian, it was the authoritarian societies of the past mis-reading the Bible to push their restrictive agenda. Nothing in the book has changed, we're just interpreting it (subjectively) more correctly now.

Not that it matters for anything, but I feel the need to point out that I am not particularly religious in the classical sense, though I am, due to my background, familiar with the Danish church).
posted by Dysk at 1:33 AM on April 19, 2010


I don't see any reasonable reading for Leviticus 18:22 that doesn't mean God considers gay sex an abomination. It's remarkably specific and literal.

How is it not a rejection of a portion of the faith to endorse homosexual union? It's not obscure metaphor requiring theological thought.

The problem is not the specific constellation of moral beliefs endorsed by any particular church, but the fundamental idea that we should base our lives on a work (any work) of supernatural fiction written by ancient tribal strongmen.
posted by Netzapper at 1:51 AM on April 19, 2010


How is it not a rejection of a portion of the faith to endorse homosexual union? It's not obscure metaphor requiring theological thought.

It depends on just how dominant the Church is. When the pendulum swings over into the moral relativism, liberal side, then of course you're allowed to pick and choose, we're all friends here, we're interpreting a document, and so and and so forth. But when the Church has lots of power, then they use it, and people like The Whelk, Blazecock Pileon, or rtha get burned alive, imprisoned, locked into stocks, and generally abused, perhaps because that is what Christ would have wanted.

Or perhaps I am being too harsh, and the Catholic church can preach small amounts of intolerance without in any way being responsible for, say, the murder of a gay man, or even the beating. Or what just happened with Clay and Harold.
-------------------------------------------

The new presidential order by Obama that hospitals must allow people to see their (gay) partners is a step in the right direction, and we've had a few steps in that direction in the last few decades. They do start to add up.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:33 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Netzapper, it's a good thing we have a New Testament that there is broad consensus throws away many of the restrictions of the Old Testament then, isn't it? I eat pork and shellfish, too, and work on the Sabbath. They're expressly forbidden in the Old Testament.

So arguably Christ and his Apostles threw away some articles of faith. Then again, that doesn't quite sound right...
posted by Dysk at 2:36 AM on April 19, 2010


sebastienbailard, I don't get locked up with the others why?

Netzapper, so long as we recognise the work of fiction as just that (by and large) then we can draw morals from its stories. Nobody would call you insane for drawing life lessons from the fictitious parables in Plato's 'Republic', so why from this book? Because some idiots get it all wrong?
posted by Dysk at 2:41 AM on April 19, 2010


So arguably Christ and his Apostles threw away some articles of faith.

I notice that "Christians" still distribute, read, and cite the parts of the Old Testament which are, according to Christ, no longer the word of God. Are they in error for doing this?

Perhaps this is not the best thread in which to defend the (Abrahamic) religions with a long history of controlling people's sexuality?
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:42 AM on April 19, 2010


I don't get locked up with the others why?
Because this particular example of man's inhumanity to man has put me in a bad mood and I was careless in putting together a 'hit list' of gay people that might be burned alive or merely battered by bible-thumpers. (Hint: if parts of a holy book are false, either don't print that part, or print it with those lines present but struck out with a printed line. Anything less will still provoke the 'hard of thinking' who will read it literally.)

I wonder when the American Left will have the power to legalize gay marriage in all the states. Or does will it hinge on one Supreme Court case where a non-gay-marriage state doesn't recognize a marriage performed in another state?
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:50 AM on April 19, 2010


sebastienbailard, I'd call them fundamentalists, and personally, I'd say that yes, they're fucking misguided at best.

The fact that these evil people exist does not mean that religion is inherently evil, or that Christianity is something to be abhorred, however. I'm terribly sorry that the authoritarian, puritanical, fundamentalist variety of Christianity seems to have caught on so terribly well in your country. I'm sorry to say that to a large degree, it probably only reflects the underlying values of huge swathes of society. I detest these people and their teachings probably as much as you do, if not more so. I also believe that the literal interpretations of the Old Testament that they purport still to be relevant and valid run directly counter to the spirit of everything Christ stood for, so well as the letter of several things (forgive your neighbour, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, &c.)

If you want to point the finger at one thing, it's conservatism. Yes, in the US this often goes with conservative Christendom, but the social dynamic in Denmark, for example, is vastly different (with most homophobia and hate crime coming from extreme right-wing groups and bikers who are certainly not in any way aligned with any Church). In Hong Kong, the most despicable attitude toward homosexuality was by and large expressed by the indigenous population, who are overwhelmingly mild adherents of Chinese folk religion (which incidentally isn't relevant at all to their attitude, other than to point out that they weren't Christian).
posted by Dysk at 2:56 AM on April 19, 2010


In fact, by the same logic used to blame Christianity for homophobia, we could blame the US. After all, all the incidents of hate mentioned here are from the US, and are largely considered an affront to American Family Values. That doesn't make it acceptable for me to go on an anti-American rant, decrying the country as evil and worthy of eradication.

So why do that to my tribe?
posted by Dysk at 2:58 AM on April 19, 2010


So why do that to my tribe?

If we were discussing a non-religious group of people mixed throughout humanity, I would not. I'd also be much more understanding if various subgroups disagreed on subtle or basic points.

But when religious folk disagree over subtle or basic points of a message from a coy God who won't even demonstrate his existence ... then I am much more willing to point out that their actions and beliefs fuel much of this.

I do not think Christians are the injured parties here. Clay and Howard are. I'm willing to concede that Christians are the injured party, if we consider that to teach or distribute Leviticus 18:22 to a small child or a grown man hurts that child or that man.

Perhaps we should distribute an expurgated, Leviticus 18:22 free, version of the Bible in the United States? Or Denmark? That is for your tribe to decide.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:16 AM on April 19, 2010


sebastienbailard, the Danes aren't my tribe.

Also, I'm not trying to in any way lessen the severity of what happened to Clay and Earl, and nor am I saying it's justified at all. It's not. What happened is utterly despicable. In fact, if you head upthread, one of the first comments was mine, so I won't rehash that. Trying to express the sheer volume of anger and hate I feel toward Sonoma county only gets my blood pressure up.

However, the fact that a terrible wrong occurred does not give you license to generalise, attack, and hate on entire groups who are not a monolithic entity. Equating the beliefs of, for example, my father (who is well aware that I'm gay, and performs essentially marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples) with those of the people responsible for the separation of a loving couple? If that isn't hateful, it's certainly hurtful.

Perhaps we should distribute an expurgated, Leviticus 18:22 free, version of the Bible in the United States? Or Denmark? That is for your tribe to decide.

Why? The New Testament already sends a pretty fucking clear message to anyone reading it as a philosophical text rather than the literal Truth from the mouth of God.
posted by Dysk at 3:41 AM on April 19, 2010


"sebastienbailard, I'd call them fundamentalists, and personally, I'd say that yes, they're fucking misguided at best.

The fact that these evil people exist..."


Being related to a few (and having gotten right the heck out of that church as soon as I could when I was 18 and moved out), I think your choice of words is unfortunate. I don't think all or even most fundamentalists are evil. I believe they are wrong, misguided, whatever. And some of what they believe is evil. But most of the fundamentalists I've known -- and known very well -- are good people who just desperately want to believe that things are always black and white, and have grabbed hold of fundamentalism as their rock. Fortunately, I suppose, I have way too much difficulty seeing things in black and white.

I don't think it does us any good to write them off as evil people. I don't intend to downgrade the harm that many fundamentalist beliefs such as anti-gay bigotry do to our society but it is far too simplistic to just call people evil. And we are never going to draw them to our side if we just call them evil and assume they can't change.
posted by litlnemo at 4:09 AM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


(I do want to clarify, though, I definitely find many of the things that fundamentalists do or believe these days to be evil. But I don't believe that a person believing in something that is evil in one part of his life is evil to the core in every part of his life. I'm not going to make excuses for the evil things that they do and believe, though.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:13 AM on April 19, 2010


litlnemo, you're absolutely correct both in what you say, and in pointing out that my choice of phrasing was indeed unfortunate, and borne of frustration and impatience. The one factor I would add to your explanation (which I feel cannot really be overstated) is ignorance (which is, notably, not the same as stupidity, though some of the latter does occasionally feature.) I believe great progress can be made through education, something that has not been a government spending priority in the US...
posted by Dysk at 4:39 AM on April 19, 2010


How is it not a rejection of a portion of the faith to endorse homosexual union?
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:36-40
posted by kirkaracha at 5:52 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The National Organization for Marriage (which of course is not for marriage for all - they want special rights for heterosexual married people) called out house last week with a push-poll. I guess whatever firm they hired to do the polling really did dial random numbers, since we're in a 415 area code!

Their page of "Why Marriage Matters" talking points is quite telling. And their "Answering Tough Questions" page makes me want to hurl things at the wall.
posted by rtha at 6:11 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


kirkaracha

I'm not educated enough to read or interpret from the original documents, but that verse, as often translated, has never impressed me as a suitable argument against fundamentalism; what Jesus seems to be suggesting there is that if one is to stone one's homosexual neighbor, he should be careful to do so out of love.

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) strikes me as a better indictment of fundamentalism, but unfortunately it's pretty clear that vignette is apocryphal. It's one of the best-known targets of Conservapedia's "bible translation" "project," and I agree with that passage's planned exclusion. Best not to muddy the waters with expressions of mercy where the historical Jesus (if he even existed) might have had none.

But hell, even if there was no question as to its authenticity as an original passage in the Gospel of John, it would still be hilariously out of place in biblical canon when considered in the light of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts.
posted by The Confessor at 8:39 AM on April 19, 2010


The Confessor neatly demonstrates that both sides (in wishing to remain internally consistent) are superficially open to accusations of 'picking and choosing' from the Bible. However, as stated, unless somebody is willing to claim to be the Messiah returned (which would make me dismiss them as a literalist) or in direct communication with God*, nobody can say which interpretation is more valid, or more correct.

*On a less superficial level, the idea of a literal God as a creator is theologically nonsensical - it requires something to exist outside of existence, which is a nonsensical proposition. Personally (and I know of more than a few vicars and theology PhDs [some crossover] that agree), I think a better definition for God is that it is our relationship to existence, to life, and represents the nature of it. Our conception of God defines our morality, our ethics, what we consider to be important, right and good. Under this definition, Secular Humanists are not devoid of God - rather, it is the particular nature of the secular humanist conception of God that leads to the tenets of secular humanism - secular humanism, in a sense, is God.
posted by Dysk at 9:21 AM on April 19, 2010


(There is an awful lot of theological and philosophical thought and development that has largely passed mainstream Anglophone Christianity by, in part to the low entry requirements into the clergy, sometimes comprising just a few short weeks at a "Bible Training Camp", if even that. By comparison, you cannot be ordained in the Danish Lutheran Church without having completed seven years of theology at university.)
posted by Dysk at 9:25 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


But hell, even if there was no question as to its authenticity as an original passage in the Gospel of John, it would still be hilariously out of place in biblical canon when considered in the light of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts.

You mean the one where God strikes two people dead for being greedy hypocrites who don't want their money given to poor people? I'm not sure that chapter is the best argument for Tea Party-style Christianity.
posted by EarBucket at 9:36 AM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


EarBucket

One reason I presented the Ananias and Sapphira story as a counterpoint to "go, and sin no more" is because, from a reading of the text, their only sin seems to have been the lie. Peter says to them that when they possessed the property it was their property, and when they possessed the money it was still their money, with the apparent point being that they would have been free to keep all of the money for themselves, or to keep only a portion of it, so long as they hadn't told the lie... so I've never taken that particular story as an indictment of those who do not show charity.

Matthew 25:31 and following, on the other hand...
posted by The Confessor at 9:51 AM on April 19, 2010


*On a less superficial level, the idea of a literal God as a creator is theologically nonsensical - it requires something to exist outside of existence, which is a nonsensical proposition.

Well, no, it just requires that there be existence outside of the universe which we inhabit, or of a different nature from our existence. There could very well be the universe and another sphere of existence outside of it, which is the location (metaphorically, I guess?) of God.


(There is an awful lot of theological and philosophical thought and development that has largely passed mainstream Anglophone Christianity by, in part to the low entry requirements into the clergy, sometimes comprising just a few short weeks at a "Bible Training Camp", if even that. By comparison, you cannot be ordained in the Danish Lutheran Church without having completed seven years of theology at university.)

So my mom and my stepdad who used to be a Methodist minister (and who I love the same as I love my biological father, and who has been nothing but good to me, incidentally, so the amateur Freud brigade can fuck off right now) started going to this church about... oh, it'd be about ten years now, I suppose. They love the people at the church, but one of the general tenets is a sort of devaluing and suspicion of structured theological study in favor of self-taught men and women who feel called by god. So every few months I get to hear another story about some truly awful sermon spawned by a pastor who would know better if he was trained in a structured setting, but he's basically doing exegesis and teaching himself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:56 AM on April 19, 2010


Pope Guilty, that still requires something to arise from nothing. Given how much else of the text is written as metaphor...
posted by Dysk at 10:35 AM on April 19, 2010


So many of the Old Testament rules and rituals around sexuality are obviously designed to encourage the bearing of children whose paternity is clear. Like, basically all of them. A man who isn't having sex with women isn't siring children; for a fleeing tribe of barely-enough people, that's a big deal.

I'm by no means a Biblical scholar; farthest thing from it. Others here are wiser than me. But Jesus came to fulfill the Law, to present the truth of the love of God to people beyond just the Jews. Over and over and over, the lesson of the New Testament is that you are good enough for God, regardless of who you are or what you have done. Over and over again, the message presented is that we need to love each other as we love ourselves, or our family, or even God Herself; that we need to believe that not only are we good enough for God, but that those around us are, too, and we need to fucking act like it.

Jesus spoke of adultery, and divorce; he spoke of hypocrisy and materialism, of selfishness and doubt, of fear and hate. He condemned all those things. But he never spoke one word against homosexuality, and it certainly wasn't because such a thing was unknown. If he didn't care enough to speak against it ,why the fuck should we? Jesus spoke unendingly and with immense passion about the absolute essence of life being the love that people have for one another; who are we to say that there's too much love in the world, and God has decided that some of it isn't good enough? The absolute hubris and fucking ARROGANCE of these people astounds me.
posted by KathrynT at 11:37 AM on April 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Pope Guilty, that still requires something to arise from nothing. Given how much else of the text is written as metaphor...

Only if you assume that nothing ever existed. The way I was taught as a kid was that time is a property of the universe- a measure of how long it's been since creation. God exists outside of the universe and therefore outside time, in a sort of never-when. Time, then, only exists within the universe, being a created property.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:17 PM on April 19, 2010


Shit, just when you think a place and people are getting enlightened. I shouldn't be shocked, but I am. Every time.

It's so easy to take civil rights for granted, because so many young people haven't been exposed to real prejudice. I'm 47 and you would not believe how far we've come. Although this story illustrates how much further there is to go.

You'd hope there'd be justice, and a payback, and there never is. Hell, most Americans still think Reagan was a funny old man and a decent president instead of the guy who presided over the single worst case of negligent genocide in American history.

This. Reagan, and whoever was pulling his strings have blood on their hands. I lived in San Francisco from '82 to '90 and I can't tell you how sad it was, seeing so many people sicken and die.

I'm tired of ignorance and cruelty.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I'd really like to see (which will never happen) is a Supreme Court ruling stating that the Establishment Clause of the constitution actually means that anyone professing religious beliefs is barred from office. If you aren't a secular humanist, you're unfit for public office.


I argued to Christians for years that there was no such thing as an "fundamentalist atheist".


Clearly, I was wrong.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Upthread some people were asking for more info. On the NCLR website I found this copy of the original complaint. (warning PDF, 78 pages)

I'm only 25 pages in and I'm seeing differences in the story. Apparently both men were compelled to sign papers giving county officials permission to do some of this stuff. The guy who was involuntarily committed was told that he was required by law to sign over his Social Security benefits, which he did. The county also never appointed a conservator for the guy who died.

The more I'm reading the more gratuitous this all looks. The county people looted through these guys stuff, taking whatever they liked. The last I saw about the cats was "whereabouts unknown." It looks to me like the county officials knew these guy weren't poor and decided to make a grab for their assets because that sort of thing happens to old people. Their gayness made the officials treat them particularly badly but probably wasn't the reason for the property seizure.

Sometimes people suck for multiple reasons.
posted by irisclara at 9:35 PM on April 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I don't intend to downgrade the harm that many fundamentalist beliefs such as anti-gay bigotry do to our society but it is far too simplistic to just call people evil. "
What about the harm they did to these two people? Destroying two innocent lives for no real reason? If that's not evil I don't know what is. And this isn't the first or last time this will happen.

Of course we don't know what particular brand of hate caused this giant mess to happen, do we? I can't believe that every hateful person who passed the ball did so because "I was told Jesus hates gays so I suppose I must hate gays"... or maybe I'm just willfully ignorant about how many of them are in positions of power like this. I just mean that it's possible that some of it is groupthink and spite and contempt for your fellow man and lording your power over the helpless because you were pushed around too.
I really wish someone would go interview these people though. I guess after the lawsuit's over.
posted by amethysts at 9:36 PM on April 19, 2010


The last I saw about the cats was "whereabouts unknown."

Oh my fucking god.
posted by rtha at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2010


Holy god, anyone who is confused about what happened here: please read the complaint irisclara linked. It tells a very clear story. Harold Scull and Clay Greene had a home full of rare and valuable possessions. According to the complaint, Sonoma County representatives forced Scull, who had dementia, to sign over powers of Conservatorship to them while falsely accusing his Greene of suffering dementia himself. On the basis of those accusations, the County had Green confined to a nursing home and did not permit him to be at his partner's side as he died. These personally pocketed all the couple's assets and threw out the rest, including their pets. The suit alleges false imprisonment, fraud, coercion, conspiracy, and intimidation. I'm pretty damn cynical when it comes to exploitation of seniors and disabled people, but I'm truly shocked by this document.

If even one of these allegations is proven true, these people should be up on criminal charges and their files should examined for as far back as any of them have been employed in their jobs. Most of us will someday be old and vulnerable, and legally speaking, gay people are far more susceptible to predation in their senior years. This is what second-class citizenship looks like. This is why gay marriage must be legal. What happened to this couple is truly evil.
posted by melissa may at 2:57 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"'I don't intend to downgrade the harm that many fundamentalist beliefs such as anti-gay bigotry do to our society but it is far too simplistic to just call people evil.'
What about the harm they did to these two people? Destroying two innocent lives for no real reason? If that's not evil I don't know what is. And this isn't the first or last time this will happen."

amethysts, you misunderstand me. I was just objecting to someone else in the thread saying that fundamentalists are "evil people." I was saying that it does no one any good to make that blanket statement. (Incidentally, I have known a few self-described fundamentalists who still don't buy into the anti-gay thing. I don't know how they can stay in their church under the circumstances, but I can't make their decisions for them. People can be strange sometimes.)

I also tried to be very clear that I was not defending evil actions. What happened here to these two people appears to have been an evil thing. The people who did it were not necessarily fundamentalists, though. There are plenty of non-religious homophobes, after all.
posted by litlnemo at 3:04 AM on April 20, 2010


Dan Savage posted this excerpt:
On or about August, 2008, Defendants MICHAEL BREWSTER and KAREN STAGG-HOURIGAN, as employees of the COUNTY acting in their official capacities... did disparage and demean Plaintiff GREENE in his presence and in the presence of others, making and/or ratifying derogatory references to Plaintiff GREENE's sexual orientation and age, stating "you know how those 'gay boys' are"... After [Harold Scull's] death, Defendants BREWSTER and STAGG-HOURIGAN further expressed displeasure at dealing with expressions of grief by a gay man who had lost his long-time partner.
Sickening.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2010


I get you, sorry to misquote you litlnemo.
posted by amethysts at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2010


Just saw this posted on reddit.
posted by sanko at 7:51 PM on April 21, 2010


sanko, I just came over to this thread to post the same link. For those who didn't click: IT APPEARS THAT THE COUPLE WAS SEPARATED FOR PROTECTION BECAUSE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, not because they are gay.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:00 PM on April 21, 2010


...according to the people accused of the actions in question.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:10 PM on April 21, 2010


from p. 9 of the complaint

Defendants COUNTY, LIEDHOLM, STAGG-HOURIGAN, BREWSTER, and others and each of them, further made representations and false and misleading statements in support of said Petition, including but not limited to accusing Plaintiff Greene of committing physical abuse and financial abuse of Decedent, being a danger to Decedent, and failing to state the true nature of Plaintiff Greene and Decedent's relationship, and failing to notify Plaintiff Greene of said proceedings, in violation of the laws of the State of California and basic human decency.

Seriously, read the complaint. It's all in there.

Wait till you get to the "My wife will love this." comments the named officials made while cleaning out the apartment. These greedy individuals were after the swag. The various charges were just an excuse to get Greene out of the apartment so they could go in, court order or not, and get it. I can't easily copy text from the pdf and I don't feel like transcribing the huge list of valuable stuff and multiple bank accounts these guys had but you should take a look. The complaint alleges that the officials took money and goods for their own personal use. Would someone stick an old gay guy in a home on trumped up charges for a share of that? Oh yeah!
posted by irisclara at 10:24 PM on April 21, 2010


Based on this, I worry that *any* people in the county's care may be mistreated as egregiously.

The nursing homes there need to be investigated.

Sonoma prison experiment.
posted by bleary at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2010


re cats: in that section of the complaint it is also stated that an employee pushed Greene to the ground when Greene objected to the employee removing the cats.
posted by bleary at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2010


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