Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 10:53 pm

Obama, hospitals and same-sex couples

I recently got into it with Joe Guarino over at his place regarding the concept of equal rights, particularly as it applies to gay people in the United States. I’m struggling to come up with a way to characterize Joe’s position without descending into snark because, to me, it appears to violate the letter and spirit of both the Second Great Commandment and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Perhaps it would be easier just to say that Joe apparently sees no problem with this:

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. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

“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.” And yet Sonoma County, California, said, essentially, “We don’t care. You don’t matter.”

If Joe Guarino thinks any county anywhere in the U.S. could or would just presumptively treat a similarly situated, heterosexual married couple like this, he’s insane. And if he thinks this treatment comports in any way with the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, he’s an idiot. I’ve known Joe for years. Despite our political and religious differences, I like him. And for the record, I do not think he’s an idiot.

But he and a lot of people like him, for reasons that neither they nor anyone else can explain satisfactorily to those of us who stand on the plain meaning of the Constitution, take such a cramped, even hemorrhoidal view of constitutional rights that they find themselves casting about for justifications to violate the laws of God and man. And that, like hemorrhoids, leads only to blood and pain.

Here’s a clue for those folks: When both Jesus and Tom Jefferson are telling you you’re wrong, you’d do well to consider that possibility.

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