Clay Greene is the 78-year-old man who claims in a lawsuit Sonoma County forcibly separated him from his partner Harold Scull in Scull’s last weeks on this earth, and then sold all their belongings at auction without permission — claims the county denies. The pair had been together for 25 years. But while Greene wants the county to pay for its wrongdoing (he wouldn’t be filing a lawsuit otherwise), it’s not like he’s going to join the gay parade. He doesn’t even consider himself to be gay.
While Greene’s attorney Anne Dennis says things like “Because they were gay, the county was able to do things they would not be able to do to a married couple,” her own client has different dictionary: “Just because my friend was 10 years older than me and fell down in the driveway. They have to make a big deal out of it.”
When prompted by a New York Times reporter, flipping through photographs of the men together, Greene says, “We weren’t a married couple. Why are you making a big deal out of this? We were just roommates.”
Greene’s attitude about his homosexuality is clearly from another era, where gay men did not speak about such things. But we can only imagine the court filings from Sonoma County, defending itself, claiming not only did it act to separate the couple because of alleged domestic abuse, but how can they be guilty of denying hospital visitation rights to a same-sex couple when the surviving partner — and plaintiff — doesn’t even consider their relationship to be that?
A judge and jury should see beyond such vernacular disparities. That doesn’t mean Sonoma County won’t exploit them.