Lon And Jim: Together 34 Years, Separated By Family And The Law. An Update.
The New Civil Rights Movement first ran the story of Lon Watts and Jim Heath in April. Jim, Lon’s partner and love of 34 years, was put into a nursing home by his sister, who also sold their home and is refusing to allow Lon to visit or contact Jim.
Last Saturday, July 6, we published an update, “The Story Of Lon And Jim: Torn Apart After 34 Years By The Hidden Evils Of Marriage Inequality.” That story drew tremendous support for Lon and Jim, withÂ New Civil Rights Movement readers responding with an amazing show of support, concern, and solidarity,Â generously donating almost $12,000 to help Lon pay for court fees and expenses. Today, another update.
A couple in Texas who read Lon and Jim’s story on these pages were driven to take action, and got in touch with Lon. They want to be anonymous for this update, because they, too, live in constant fear that their family could be torn apart by anti-marriage-equality laws. So for this update, I’ll refer to them as ‘P.’ and ‘D.’
P. and D. have one child, and are in the process of adopting a second. They are a stable, responsible couple with a strong and loving relationship. They have not spent a night apart in over 10 years. Lon and Jim’s story resonated profoundly with them, because they know what it’s like to live with the knowledge that their children could be taken away – their lives destroyed – without the protection of a state sanctioned, legal marriage.
As I’ve covered this story, I’ve gotten to know Lon Watts, and I’ve been amazed every day by his strength. Knowing how hard things have been for Lon, I’ve wished that I lived closer to him and could give more concrete help than I can from the relatively enlightened San Francisco Bay Area. So, when Lon contacted me to tell me that P. and D. had visited Jim in the nursing home on Lon’s behalf, I was eager to talk to them to find out how Jim was, and what they’d seen and heard.
P. and D. drove on Monday from their Texas home to Pittsburg, a small Texas town with a population of less than 5000 people. When they pulled up to the Pittsburg Nursing Center, they decided to go in one at a time – a wise idea, since the sudden appearance of a gay couple, asking to visit a man in the middle of a fairly notorious case involving marriage equality, might tip off the staff.
P. asked to see Jim Heath, and was taken to Jim’s room by a nurse. He didn’t know what to expect, but he found Jim lucid, alert, and oriented. P. explained who he was, and why he was there.
Jim immediately asked about Lon, wanting to know where he was, how he was, and when Lon would be coming to get him and take him home. When P. told Jim the name of the Texas town where he lives with his partner and child, Jim remembered the town well, asking after details like this year’s festivals, though it had been decades since he’d spent a significant amount of time there.
Physically, Jim Heath looked well, but his hair was shaggy. His nails were long, and that handsome mustache – the one that had reminded Lon for 34 years of Tom Selleck’s – had been completely shaved off. P. took a couple of quick pictures. One of them shows Jim looking directly into the camera lens, his eyes alert and focused. He looks like he’s asking a question, or listening intently. Behind him, on the bed, is a cheap-looking institutional pillow, without a cover.
According to P., the nursing home took away Jim’s TV and phone. This worries Lon, of course. “Jim LOVES his cooking shows,” Lon tells me. “And what else is there to do in that place? Why did they have to take his TV away, as well as his phone?” Mostly, though, Lon was thrilled to hear about, and see pictures of, his beloved Jim, looking well and asking to see Lon.
However, what P. says happened next was unpleasant. After P. had been in Jim’s room for 15 minutes, one of the nurses came in and told him she had called Carolyn Heath- – Jim’s sister — and told her Jim was being visited. If P. didn’t leave immediately, the police would be called, and P. and D. would be thrown of the property.
According to federal nursing home regulations, patients have the right to see visitors in private, when they want to, for as long as they wish. Patients also have the right to private phone calls as often as they wish. Of course, nursing home patients who have a legal guardian are to some extent at the mercy of that person — in this case, Jim’s sister Carolyn, who won legal guardianship recently despite Lon and Jim having made up Power of Attorney documents drawn up naming each other as guardian.
If a guardian even has the right to deny a patient visits and phone calls, my research tells me that those decisions must be made with Jim’s best interests in mind. I can’t imagine how it is in Jim’s best interest to be denied visitors, to be denied phone calls, and most importantly, to be denied any contact with the one person most familiar and important to him — his life partner and soul mate, Lon Watts.
P. told me that when he heard the police were going to be called to toss him out, he left. That’s completely understandable. P. and D. can not afford to draw legal attention to themselves — they risked it just by visiting Jim, but the possibility of being exposed further by police presence isn’t something they could allow. They have a gorgeous, happy little son, and another child on the way. Reluctantly, they drove home.
I have learned a lot writing this story. For one thing, I have learned to be even more grateful that I was born and have lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prop 8 aside (three cheers for its recent defeat), I have learned that I’m incredibly lucky to live in a place where being gay is relatively accepted. Being Lon’s friend, and talking to P. and D., has made me even more aware of the privileges I take for granted.
Most of all, I have learned how terrifying it can be to be a gay couple in a state like Texas. Lon has lived through hell, losing the love of his life; his home; having his finances destroyed and his reputation attacked. P. and D., because they can not legally marry each other, live every day knowing that the most precious thing in their lives — their family — is terribly vulnerable. If one person — perhaps even a relative — were motivated enough by greed and/or prejudice, P. and D. could lose their children.
“We have to watch what we say and what we do as, we have to be so careful with having two adopted children in our lives,” P. told me. “I can just see someone turning us in, saying we are bad parents or we don’t take care of our children or whatever else they can dream up.”
There are things I can’t write about right now, for legal reasons, but Lon has repeatedly asked me to thank you all on his and Jim’s behalf. He is blown away by the help and love he’s received. He has new pictures of Jim, and hopeful news about his mental state and health.
It’s easy to focus on the bad in this story; to be overwhelmed by the outrageous injustice of marriage inequality. But, as cruel as some people and laws and institutions can be, it’s amazing to see the countering forces: grace, kindness, empathy, humanity. These have been displayed in humbling abundance by NCRM readers, by supporters of Lon and Jim, and by two men in Texas who risked so much to help them.
Lon hasÂ a GoFundMe page, and he is very grateful for any amount people are willing to donate.
In April The New Civil Rights Movement was the first news organization to report on the story of Lon Watts and Jim Heath, after their story appeared on the Gay Marriage USA Facebook page. You can read our original story: “TX Man: After 34 Years My Partnerâ€™s Sister Forced Us Apart, Took Our Home Because We Werenâ€™t Married.”
Sarah Laidlaw Beach is an artist and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a straight ally who works as a graphic designer, and lives with her partner and dog.
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Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
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Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
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Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Donald Trump, and all of America, could spend the next 18 months – or longer – engrossed in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s trial of the ex-president, and that could bring the trial close to Election Day.
That’s according to a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Charles Coleman, who is now a civil rights attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.
Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, “How long typically might a case like this take?” Coleman offered a two-tiered answer.
“A case like this is usually going to take a year or a year and a half,” Coleman said.
That could be through September of 2024.
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“Wow,” a surprised Jansing replied. “So it’s going right up into the campaign.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Coleman. “But it’s important to understand I said a case ‘like this.’ This particular case, I expect may take longer because I am anticipating a number of different legal maneuvers by Donald Trump’s defense team.”
That theoretically means into October of 2024, or longer.
“I do see motions to dismiss at a number of different terms, more likely than not to the point that the judge probably will ultimately end up admonishing them and telling them stop filing motions to dismiss. I think that that’s going to happen,” Coleman explained.
“I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I do believe that we are going to see an attempt to try to change the venue, in this case outside of somewhere in the five boroughs. All of that is going to extend the time deeper and deeper into election season.”
READ MORE: Manhattan DA Unleashes on Jim Jordan With Stern Warning: You May Not ‘Interfere’ With Trump Prosecution
Reuters agrees, reporting Friday morning, “any potential trial is still at minimum more than a year away, legal experts said, raising the possibility that the former U.S. president could face a jury in a Manhattan courtroom during or even after the 2024 presidential campaign, as he seeks a return to the White House.”
And because “Trump’s case is far from typical,” Reuters notes, his trial could extend “past Election Day in November 2024.”
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