Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gay Partner Rights

This rant against Proposition 8 (or "Proposition Hate", as the guy is calling it) is making the rounds on the internet. To briefly summarize the situation: A gay man, Jake, says he is living with his partner, and that they have taken in a mentally disabled 37 year-old named Thomas who was abandoned by his father and abused by his mother for the last 15 years. Thomas is Jake's partner's brother. Jake is railing against Proposition 8 because he says that if his partner died, Thomas' mother would have legal claim on co-ownership of their house. She could move in the next day and start abusing Thomas again. Presumably, Jake thinks that he and his partner should have the legal protection that marriage would bring.

A couple of aspects about the story seem very strange to me. First of all, Jake says that when he and his partner realized what was going on with Jake, they brought him to live with them. Apparently Thomas is his partner's brother. How did he not realize what was going on? Why did it take 15 years?

Secondly, in a later post, Jake details the steps he and his partner have gone through to try to make sure full ownership of the house goes to Jake:
The domestic partner and I went to what was promoted to us as the best gay attorney in Chicago to make sure we had all the legal protections of marriage. He drew up a thousand dollars in wills and powers of attorney and related documents, and we thought we were all set. But since then we've learned from our financial planner and some other attorney friends that mere wills—especially the wills of gay domestic partners—are easily contested by blood relatives and we need to fork over thousands more to have trusts and who knows what else drawn up to protect ourselves. So we're looking for a better attorney who will give us the legal protections we asked for in the first place.
I really want to know how true this is. Are wills that easily contested? If so, what good are they? I've always argued that the rights associated with marriage could be conferred without the legal institution of marriage. This makes that sound difficult, if not possible. I would think that a relatively competent lawyer could draw up documents that would grant the rights of marriage between a gay couple that would stand up in court. How hard should this be? A good will and power of attorney don't do it?

This follow-up post also tries to explain how nobody knew what was going on, and does so by saying that Thomas and his mother lived in a gated community and they rarely visited. Was the mother not abusive when the domestic partner was younger? And he notes that they're not pressing charges because it's a family decision, but some of the abuse they're attributing to this woman sounds horrific. Why should we necessarily believe Jake's story?

Anyway, I'm not calling the guy and out-and-out liar, but his posts are generating more questions for me than they answer.


Philip said...

Even if he's telling the truth, it's not a compelling argument for legalizing gay marriage (many compelling arguments exist, but this ain't one of them).

I find the whole thing offensive - marriage is a sanctuary from abusive parenting? The poor kid wouldn't deserve a loving home just as much if his brother weren't in a monogamous relationship? The writer is exploiting this situation for his agenda, instead of pushing to reform adoption laws to allow unmarried guardians to trump abusive blood relatives.

Sebastian said...

Wills which completely leave out blood relatives and which don't have marriage partners actually are fairly easy to contest. Some judges see it as a sign of 'undue influence' when the family get cut out (presumeably because it is 'natural' to want to leave much of your estate to someone in your family).