The plaintiffs in Greene v. Sonoma County allege that a California county violated the civil rights of two elderly gay partners, Clay Greene and Harold Scull, when it placed Greene in a nursing home, Scull in a hospital, prevented Greene from seeing Scull, and auctioned almost $500K worth of personal property from the home that the two men had shared. Scull died in the hospital a few months later.
Sonoma County, however, claims that it was protecting Scull from Greene’s physical abuse, and that Scull did not wish to return to the two men’s shared home.
According to the New York Times,
Mr. Greene’s troubles began when Harold Scull, his partner for more than 20 years, fell down the steps of their home in April 2008. At the time, the complaint said, Mr. Scull was showing signs of mental impairment.
County officials successfully petitioned the court to gain some powers of conservatorship. Then they “sold, kept, converted to their own use, and otherwise disposed of” almost $500,000 worth of belongings from the home shared by the two men — including furniture, art objects, memorabilia from the years Mr. Scull spent working in Hollywood, as well as a truck and two cats, the lawsuit alleges.
Mr. Greene said that he and Mr. Scull had previously specified each other as executors in case either became incapacitated, but the county ignored the legal documents and the history of their relationship, and at one point referred to Mr. Greene as Mr. Scull’s “roommate.
Scull died at age 89, without ever seeing Greene again. Greene’s lawsuit also names as defendants the nursing home and the auction company.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights launched a national media campaign to bring visibility to the case. “In the 33 years of our organization’s history, this case is perhaps among the most tragic the NCLR has ever been involved in,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. The complaint is available here.
According to the County, hospital employees saw bruises on Scull’s arms and face, and suspected elder abuse. Sonoma County claims that Scull required assistance with his financial affairs and medical needs, and that Scull was afraid of Greene, and did not wish to return to him. The County asserted that it acted properly in response to Clay Greene’s domestic abuse of Harold Scull.