I’m a huge PIXAR far, and as such was very happy to go see UP! right when it came out. But those damn mean folks at PIXAR, who normally deliver nice, happy stories, totally tricked me; the first bit of the story [SPOILER ALERT] follows Carl and his wife Elie, the love of his life, from the moment they first meet as children. And then they get old. And then Elie dies. Dies! And all that Carl has left of her is their house together. And everyone I’ve talked to about UP! has felt the same way I did—we all got super teary eyed, sniffly, hell some even downright sobby at the idea of these lifelong friends and lovers being separated by death.
Well, at least Carl got to stay by her bedside, and got to keep his house. If Elie had been a man, that would not have been the case: from GetEqual’s letter to Obama asking him to be an advocate for equality:
“A particularly wrenching example of this blatant cruelty involves Clay Greene and Harold Scull in Sonoma County, CA. They were kept apart when Harold was hospitalized in 2008. After Harold’s death, the county terminated Harold and Clay’s lease, removed Clay from his home, and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county also auctioned off all of their belongings. Clay grieved alone, away from his home, and stripped of all his possessions.”
In the PIXAR version, Carl ties a billionty balloons to his house in order to save it (and himself—he’s being shipped off to a retirement home). In the real-life version, because the best friends and lovers happened to be two men, the ending was decidedly different. From The Stranger:
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.
Obama just asked the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners. But that was too late for Harold and Clay. If Harold and Clay were allowed to, say, get married, this wouldn’t have been an issue. They would have been declared family and allowed to be together, and Clay would be allowed to keep his house.
What kills me, what absolutely totally kills me, is that there are people out there upset over the idea that people like Harold and Clay could be given (gasp!) the rights of other best friends and lovers to be together when one is hospitalized; that there are people who would tear up at UP! (just like I did) because Carl and Elie were a straight couple (who couldn’t have children), but who would sneer at Harold and Clay and their situation. I’m waiting for the backlash, I really am; waiting for the radio and TV clips that dare say something like “boo hoo” or try to tear down those two men and their relationship. And it kills me that I’m probably not waiting in vain; that the Tea Party types won’t disappoint me in their lack of compassion, tact, or intelligence.
To all you people that helped block same-sex marriage because somehow the idea of two dudes or chicks getting hitched threatens your extra-marital-affair-tastic on-paper-only marriage? You did this. You didn’t just help block gay marriage, you also helped block the rights of people like Harold and Clay to get to spend their last days together. Clay didn’t even get to keep his house. He got the ending Carl would have had if Carl didn’t have all those balloons (and a partner that had a vagina instead of a penis).
I wanted to get all angry and ranty, but instead I’m sad. I’m sadder than I was when I saw that square-head old man say goodbye to his wife. At least he got to say goodbye. Man, just thinking about this makes my heart ache in a way that won’t go away any time soon.
Thanks guys, really. You really fought the good fight for the institution of marriage, didn’t you? What a victory! What a way to keep dying people away from their loved ones, and their loved ones taken out of their homes! Good on you! All because of sex acts with which you are so uncomfortable that you have to selectively hide behind religious rhetoric in order to stay away from it (when you’re not secretly doing it anyway. What is with you people? You can only get off if it’s forbidden, right? I mean, that’s what you’re really doing, right? Protecting the best part of your hidden gay sex lives?)
I don’t get it. I just really and truly don’t get it. I’m going to go watch UP! and cry now.