Saturday, February 04, 2006

This is the House that Sam Built!

I've written before on this subject. However after reading a little 64 page book called Brokeback Mountain and getting the DVD today from the same great friend who loaned me the book, my mind keeps going back to this story. I first learned of it when my friend recommended the documentary Tying the Knot. The following story I recently received in my email.
There are so many injustices in our country(USA). It seems senseless that the leaders of our country have no problem with one that could be so easily solved. But don't just take my word for it- read on and come to your own conclusion....Would your marriage really be threatened if these two men had been married?

December 31, 2005
Partner's death ends happy life on ranch
2 decades together mean nothing in Oklahoma law

By Jessie Torrisi
Columbia News Service
On the face of it, Sam Beaumont, 61, with his cowboy hat, deep-throated chuckle and Northwestern drawl, is not so different from the ranch hands in Ang Lee's critically acclaimed film "Brokeback Mountain," which opened in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

More "Romeo & Juliet" than "Rent," "Brokeback Mountain" challenges modern perceptions of what it means to be gay in rural America.
"Listen," the character Twist says to del Mar as part of a dream that goes unrealized. "I'm thinking, tell you what, if you and me had a little ranch together -- little cow and calf operation, your horses -- it'd be some sweet life."
That pretty much describes the life Beaumont had. He settled down with Earl Meadows and tended 50 head of cattle for a quarter-century on an Oklahoma ranch. "I was raised to be independent. I didn't really care what other people thought," Beaumont said.
In 1977, Beaumont was divorced and raising three sons after a dozen years in the Air Force when Meadows walked up to him near the Arkansas River.
"It was a pretty day -- January 15th, 65 degrees," Beaumont said. "He came up, we got to talkin' till 2 in the morning. I don't even remember what we said." But "I knew it was something special."
Beaumont moved to be with Meadows in his partner's hometown of Bristow, Okla., a place of 4,300 people. Together, they bought a ranch and raised Beaumont's three sons. The mortgage and most of the couple's possessions were put in Meadows' name.
"I had two dads"
During the day, Meadows worked as a comptroller for Black & Decker. He'd drop the boys at school on his way to work. At home, Beaumont took care of the ranch, feeding and tagging cattle, cooking and cleaning, and once built a barn.
"As far as I was concerned, I had two dads," said one of Beaumont's sons, now 33, who requested anonymity. He was 2 years old when Meadows joined the family.
"Dad helped with schoolwork and all the stuff around the house, taught me to ride horses and milk cows. Earl used to take me to the company picnics and Christmas parties. He bought me my first car."
Most of their friends, Beaumont said, were straight couples, women who worked at Black & Decker, "teachers and doctors and lawyers," and childhood friends of Meadows who often came to dinner at the ranch.
"People treated them fine," said Eunice Lawson, who runs a grocery store in Bristow.
But in 1999, Meadows had a stroke and Beaumont took care of him for a year until he died at age 56.
That's where the fantasy of a life together on the range collides with reality. After a quarter-century on the ranch he shared with his partner, Beaumont lost it all on a legal technicality in a state that doesn't recognize domestic partnerships.
Meadows' will, which left everything to Beaumont, was fought in court by a cousin of the deceased and was declared invalid by the Oklahoma Court of Appeals in 2003 because it was short one witness signature.
Unequal under the law
A judge ruled the rancher had to put the property, which was appraised at $100,000, on the market. The animals were sold. Beaumont had to move.
Because Meadows had no biological children or surviving parents, his estate was divided up among his heirs. When the ranch sells, the proceeds are to be divided among dozens of Meadows' cousins.
"They took the estate away from me," said Beaumont, who said he put about $200,000 of his own money into the ranch. "Everything that had Earl's name on it, they took. They took it all and didn't bat an eye."
Every state has common-law marriage rules that protect heterosexual couples. If someone dies without a will, or with a faulty one, his or her live-in partner is treated as the rightful inheritor.
But only seven states currently give gay couples protections -- such as inheritance rights and health benefits -- through marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships. What's more, Oklahoma last year amended its state constitution to ensure that neither marriage nor any similar arrangement is extended to same-sex couples.
Today, there are roughly 90,000 gay couples living in small-town America, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and more than 5,700 in Oklahoma.
Last year, Beaumont moved to nearby Wewoka, Okla., to a one-bedroom place with 350 acres for his horses, white Pyrenees and Great Dane to roam. He said he was continuing to fight the cousins, who are suing for back rent for the years he lived on the ranch.
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved

After thought- Something struck me after reading this story again before I posted it. These men thought they had covered all the bases. They had a will. They didn't have any agenda to change things and didn't ask the government to do so. And had one of them lost a Y chromosome, the state of Oklahoma would have protected what our society would define as a marriage: long-term commitment, owning property, recognition by the community and even raising children. I read some more and found out that these two guys actually BUILT this house themselves! I honestly don't know how those cousins can sleep at night knowing full well that they screwed over this old man (and to top it off they want back rent!!). It's times like these that I honestly hope in a hell in the afterlife. Justice on this mortal coil is severely lacking at times!


Jolie said...

I'm so glad we watched this movie together. I still think about Sam and his situation. He's story broke my heart. Instead of bonding with him to celebrate their cousin's life, the relatives destroyed everything he strived for by making his partner leave his house and then sued him for back rent. It's amazing how people hurt others in the name of God or upholding some arcane law. If people used their inner compass more often, I think that the world would be much more compassionate.

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abogado-david said...

Just a slight detail--Kansas is actually one of the last states that hasn't abolished common law marriage. Missouri, for example, does not have it any longer. There's no real point. Just a detail.