Lawsuit ignites firestorm in gay community against Sonoma County

  • Clay Greene was prevented from visiting his partner Harold Scull during his final months and shut out of his estate following his death because the two were not married.

Clay Greene flipped through the pages Tuesday of an old photo album, one of the few mementos remaining from the 25 years he spent with his partner, Harold Scull, 88.

Greene, 78, said that as Scull lay dying in a hospital bed two years ago, Sonoma County officials denied visitation for the same-sex couple, contending they were mere "roommates" despite signed wills, medical declarations and powers of attorney naming each as the other's spouse.

His lawsuit accuses the county's office of the public guardian/conservator of forcing him into a nursing home, of selling the contents of the men's Sebastopol home and of carting off choice heirlooms for themselves.

"They stole my furniture, put me in a retirement home and told me to shut up," said Greene, sitting in his cramped studio apartment where he lives alone in Guerneville. "They took my cats. They took everything."

The case has sparked outrage within the gay community where many believe the men were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

But a county attorney said the case is "about domestic abuse, not gay rights."

Gregory Spaulding, who represents county employees named in the lawsuit, said Scull was hospitalized after he was attacked by Greene. Their belongings were sold for about $35,800 to cover expenses for their care, he said.

"When the facts come out, the story that's being thrown out will be found inaccurate in number of respects," Spaulding said. "The case came to the public guardian when Scull reported he had been assaulted by Clay Greene."

He said the two men were separated for their own protection.

Greene's lawyer, Anne Dennis, said no violence occurred between the men. Scull was hospitalized after a fall at his home, she said.

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