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    Give me a story and give me a bed / Give me possessions

    I need something explained to me, maybe because I’m a moron. This (not an American story, but not dissimilar from things that happen in America, either) is from 365Gay:

    Dominique Ripoll-Dausa claims that he and retired millionaire Phillip Middleton considered themselves to be married before Middleton’s death last June following a short battle with cancer.

    They had been together for 15 years. At the time of his death, Middleton and Ripoll-Dausa were sharing a home.

    But, Middleton’s parents claim their son was not gay. James and Joan Middleton claimed the two men were only friends and they say they did not draw any inferences from the fact that the two men appeared to share a bed while the family were on holiday together. [You can convince yourself of anything, huh?–SRK]

    Ripoll-Dausa is asking the Constitutional Court to declare his relationship with Middleton equivalent to that of a married couple. His suit says that the law unconstitutionally discriminates against the rights of gay life partners to inherit their loved one’s estates, particularly when the deceased leaves no will.

    This never came up in 15 years together? The report doesn’t say whether Ripoll-Dausa can live on his own earnings or is a starving-artist type that Middleton was supporting. I can see how you might, if in love with a millionaire, want to avoid too-eager discussions about what’s going to happen to all those lovely assets after he’s gone, because it could make you sound like a gold-digger even if you aren’t one. It’s also possible that Middleton didn’t want to make a will in his partner’s favor because that would make their relationship “official”–someone who’s determined not to think of himself as a homosexual can be a bottomless well of rationalizing ingenuity when it comes to that sort of thing.

    Whatever the case, no matter how good the companionship, sex, and art collection–am I the only one whose first thought is, Ooh! What was in that art collection?–I can’t imagine feeling bonded for life with someone who wasn’t willing to be worried big time about how I’d manage if he died. Ripoll-Dausa and Middleton were free to engage in whatever relationship they wished, and maybe the topic was contentious between them or they just didn’t like to think about their own mortality.

    Never mind. All of this is speculation. What is not speculative is that queers look like jokes when we start bellowing about discrimination to cover our own failures to plan like adults. These two had a decade and a half to have The Talk and write wills–if this guy was a millionaire, you can bet he had a lawyer or five. They had full knowledge that they were not considered married under South African law and therefore had no legal claim on each other’s property. I vigorously support domestic partnerships/civil unions, but the case for them is weakened when dizzy bitches don’t even bother to use the resources that are available, then act as if the bind they end up in is someone else’s fault. Way to underscore that we know how to take charge of our lives, there, guy.

    9 Responses to “Give me a story and give me a bed / Give me possessions”

    1. Kris says:

      I won’t debate your points, because I think you’re right in one sense (the guy comes off kind of irresponsibly), but I do think that, once I read the article, there’s just so much unknown. For example, how old were these guys? I could see a situation where they were in their late 30s, early 40s. It’s still pretty uncommon to have a will in that age range.
      So there could still be reasonable, non-completely irresponsible reasons for being put into this situation (and the amount of $$ here probably is pushing people to extremes). And I do think it’s pretty unfair that straight people, in the same circumstances, would have been afforded automatic protection (commonlaw marriage was developed for this purpose). In that way, the law *is* being used to discriminate. Though, if folks were vehemently against amending it to include gay couples, I’d then be in favor of getting rid of it altogether. I mean, just so we don’t have institutionalized discrimination.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I look at it as being like coming out to your parents, in this sense: We all went through weekends home when we meant to have the discussion and then wiffed it. I think it’s unfair to point to any particular one of those as evidence that someone’s irresponsible. However, fifteen years of weekends should be enough time to get it together. If in all that time, you haven’t once summoned the resolve to do what you need to do, then you are (cumulatively, as it were) irresponsible.
      After all, what we don’t know could just as easily work against the man in question as for him. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Middleton’s parents are right and the two of them weren’t in a long-term committed relationship. That’s one of the reasons wills exist–so that blameless bystanders who want to mind their own business don’t have to waste time on attempts at posthumous mind-reading.
      And while the point is well taken that a lot of younger straight people don’t have their affairs in order, too, the fact remains that our circumstances are different from theirs. Some of that’s discrimination, and some of it isn’t, and we should discuss which is which and fix what needs to be. In the interim, we still have to assess and deal with things as they exist.

    3. John says:

      Us younger straight people who are responsible have wills by age 30 (or 28 in my case). If you’ve got a spouse or kids, some states make them the automatic beneficiary, some step in and let a probate judge decide. If your kids are minors and you and your spouse go, they get “help”, needed or not. If you move, you can’t automatically assume that your new abode follows the same law as your former residence. A will kills all the guesswork.
      If you have any consideration for your family at all, you keep the State the he@# out of your business. If your family forgets something in the initial settlement with the judge, it takes a fee (and lost time) to reopen the case, not to mention some judge who never held an honest job in his life (lawyering don’t count, boys) gets to play God with your assets. Been there, done that: my father died at age 48.

    4. Normal Desmond says:

      Sean is right. It’s time to stop making excuses for our failure to act like adults. If gay couples want marriage rights so much, why don’t they do everything possible within the existing framework of laws to protect their interests? Claiming discrimination after a partner’s death, gives the impresson that inheritance and other matters were not that important anyway. Straight couples are advised to do do estate planning, why should gays be any different? If you don’t act like a married couple, then why should you be treated like one?

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Sorry to hear about your father, John. I think you’re right that most people who haven’t actually had to go through probate have little sense of what a nightmare it can be. Even I, fortunately, only know from friends with stories like yours.
      And to echo Normal’s point and clarify something from that last comment of mine: I don’t think the original failure to make wills was in some special faggot category of stupidity that makes it worse; Kris is right that, if you take the sexual orientation out of it, you have the regular old human tendency to put unpleasantness off. But when someone files a lawsuit alleging discrimination, he’s making it a gay issue, and at that point it’s perfectly proper–if not imperative–to ask why he didn’t take care of it when he had the chance. The whole attitude that you can float complacently through life and just figure that it’s other people’s job to fix your problems when they arise–that’s what I object to.

    6. John says:

      I was in college over 1000 miles from home, but the distaste of my mother’s minor skirmishes with the leagal system still lingers – and my Dad’s affairs were primarily in order.

    7. Mrs. du Toit says:

      If we substitute the phrase “When I grow up and handle my life and affairs responsibly” (a shorter version is “when I grow up”) to every activist’s attempts to “make the state recognize me and do stuff I don’t want to have to take care of” perhaps it would be an issue of groups, rather than the mainstream. I don’t think it’s endemic to gays particularly, just any group who have activists who make their living convincing people that potty training isn’t necessary when there is always someone else to wipe your bum for you. The end result is that we have a lot of dirty bums.
      (Pun intended–sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    8. Sean Kinsell says:

      “Normal Desmond”? “Dirty bums”? I never thought I’d live to see worse puns than my father’s. Yeesh. :)
      John, sorry if I implied that your father had left your family adrift, which wasn’t what I meant to say. I will affirm that my friends from college who went to law school agree that it’s best to have a vanishingly small amount of ambiguity in your papers if you want to spare your loved ones headaches. And even then, it may not work.

    9. John says:

      Sean, I took no such intent, I’m just still bitter about how much power we’ve handed to lawyers and judges.