SAGE Applauds Recent Sonoma County Settlement, Bringing Justice to an Elder Couple and Promoting Respect and Dignity for all LGBT Older Adults
Led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, last week's settlement resolved a lawsuit against Sonoma County and provided compensation for the County's discriminatory conduct again an elder gay couple.
Greene was represented by staff from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and The Law Office of Anne N. Dennis and Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong.
"We applaud NCLR for its leadership in winning a case that serves as a powerful reminder about the types of legal protections, respect and dignity that all LGBT older adults deserve," said Michael Adams, SAGE's executive director. "While the harm against Clay Greene and Harold Scull is irreparable, this settlement, and the policy changes it compelled, will create long lasting improvements in the lives of LGBT older adults."
According to NCLR, Greene and Scull lived together for 20 years and had executed both mutual powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions and wills naming each other as beneficiaries.
In April 2008, County employees separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials ignored the couple's legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease, and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will.
The County did not consult Greene in Scull's medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another. In August 2008, before the partners could be reunited, Scull passed away.
"Too often, LGBT older adults are vulnerable to the discrimination of the very institutions that are meant to protect them," said Adams. "This settlement sends a strong message and will help improve services to LGBT elders who rely on the assistance of the Sonoma County Public Guardian's Office."
Greene and Scull's estate will receive $653,000 to compensate for the damages the couple suffered due to the County's discriminatory and unlawful conduct. In addition, the County has modified a number of policies in its Public Guardian's Office, including requiring County employees to follow protocols before seizing private property, preventing County employees from relocating elders or others against their will, and prohibiting County employees from backdating information in their guardianship database.
SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. With offices in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 27 local SAGE affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org.