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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, with New Civil Rights Movement readers responding with an amazing show of support, concern, and solidarity, 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.

skitched-1548Physically, 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 has 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 Partner’s Sister Forced Us Apart, Took Our Home Because We Weren’t Married.”


skitched-20130706-103052Sarah 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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Fulton County Judge in Trump Case Orders Jurors’ Identities and Images Must Be Protected



The Fulton County Superior Court judge presiding over Georgia’s RICO, conspiracy, and election interference case against Donald Trump on Monday afternoon ordered the identities and images of all jurors and prospective jurors to remain secret, ordering they may only be referred to by a number.

“No person shall videotape, photograph, draw in a realistic or otherwise identifiable manner, or otherwise record images, statements, or conversations of jurors/prospective jurors in any manner” that would violate a Superior Court rule, Judge Scott McAfee ordered, “except that the jury foreperson’s announcement of the verdict or questions to the judge may be audio recorded.”

“Jurors or prospective jurors shall be identified by number only in court filings or in open court,” he added.

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

Judge McAfee also ordered no juror’s or prospective juror’s identity, “including names, addresses, telephone numbers, or identifying employment information” may be revealed.

MSNBC’s Katie Phang posted the order, and added: “Another important part of the Order: no responses from juror questionnaires or notes about jury selection shall be disclosed, unless permitted by the Court.”

Judge McAfee’s order comes after Donald Trump’s weekend of attacks on his former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. Trump strongly suggested he should be executed for treason. Trump also strongly suggested he would target Comcast, NBC News, and MSNBC if he wins the 2024 presidential election.

Responding to the news, MSNBC’s Medhi Hasan observed, “We have just normalized the fact that the former president, and GOP presidential frontrunner, is basically a mob boss.”


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‘Isn’t Glock a Good Gun?’ Trump Asks Before Saying He Is Buying One – Campaign Forced to Deny He Did



During a photo shoot at a South Carolina gun shop, Donald Trump posed with and then said he wanted to buy a Glock, asking if it is “a good gun.”

Some say it might be illegal to sell a gun to anyone under criminal indictment, and if he took the gun with him that too might be illegal. It was not clear if, despite saying he would, he actually bought the firearm. The Trump campaign initially said he had, although later backtracked on its claim, and deleted the social media post saying he had.

In the photo op (video below,) Trump posed with several people, including the Republican Attorney General of South Carolina, Alan Wilson, who has held that elected position since 2011.

“Trump’s spokesman announced that Trump bought a Glock today in South Carolina. He even posted video,” wrote former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob. “If Trump took the gun with him, that’s a federal crime since he’s under indictment. There’s also a law against selling a gun to someone under federal indictment like Trump.”

READ MORE: ‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air

Reuters’ crime and justice reporter Brad Heath posted the federal laws that might apply, as well as Trump’s campaign spokesperson’s clip of the ex-president’s remarks, and his spokesperson saying, “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

CNN analyst Stephen Gutowski, who writes about gun policy, added, “It would be a crime for him to actually buy this gun because he’s under felony indictment. Did he actually go through with this purchase?”

“People under felony indictments can’t ‘receive’ new firearms. That also means you can’t buy them,” he also wrote.

MSNBC anchor and legal contributor Katie Phang wrote, “I don’t know if he actually bought the gun. At least it didn’t happen in this video. Also, the Attorney General of South Carolina is in this video. Is he watching Trump commit a crime?”

But some pointed to a federal judge in Texas’ ruling from last year. Reuters reported, a “federal law prohibiting people under felony indictment from buying firearms is unconstitutional.”

Watch the video below or at this link.



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‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air



The White House is mocking a Fox News host who appeared stunned as the former President of Ukraine destroyed House Republicans’ impeachment case against President Joe Biden on live-air in real time.

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, a supporter of Donald Trump, on Monday interviewed former President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, who served from 2014-2019. Kilmeade previously had interviewed Viktor Shokin, the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was fired in 2016 for not prosecuting corruption cases.

“I had a chance to talk to Viktor Shokin, a man who says he was friends of yours, who you asked to come back and help out during the transition after the previous regime,” Kilmeade told Poroshenko. “Here’s what he said on why he was fired by you. Listen.”

On previously recorded video, Shokin says: “Poroshenko fired me at the insistence of the then Vice President Biden, because I was investigating Burisma… There were no complaints whatsoever, no problems with how I was performing at my job, but because pressure was repeatedly put on President Poroshenko that is, what ended up in him firing me.”

READ MORE: ‘Height of Irresponsibility’: Top LGBTQ Civil Rights Group Slams House Republicans Over Shutdown and ‘Politics of Hate’

Kilmeade then asks the former Ukrainian President, “Is that why he got fired, because of the billion dollars and the former vice president now President?”

“First of all, this is the completely crazy person,” Poroshenko says of Shokin, as Kilmeade grows increasingly stunned. “This is something wrong with him. Second, there is no one single word of truth. And third, I hate the idea to come to make any commands and to make any intervention in an American election. We have very much enjoyed the bipartisan support. And please do not use the such person like Shokin to undermine the trust between bipartisan support in Ukraine.”

Surprised, Kilmeade asks, “What do you mean, he’s not your friend?”

“I don’t see him maybe for years or something, at all,” Poroshenko tells Kilmeade, before getting a bit heated. “And I hate to have him, because [he] keep playing very dirty game, unfortunately.”

“Okay,” the surprised Fox News host says, before asking again. “So that is not true. You didn’t, you didn’t, he didn’t get fired because of Joe Biden?”

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

“He was fired,” Poroshenko replied. “But because of his own statement, and if you do not do that next day, Ukrainian parliament will fire him.”

HuffPost’s political reporter Arthur Delaney, responding to the video, writes: “This is the centerpiece of the Republicans’ corruption allegation against Joe Biden.”

While debunked numerous times during Trump’s presidency, Republicans have resurfaced the false claim that then-Vice President Biden forced then-president Poroshenko to fire Shokin in an effort to protect Burisma. Shokin was not investigating Burisma, according to a CNN fact check.

“Poroshenko is absolutely right here and good for him for stating clearly how dangerous it is that his false story is being used to play political games with n the US. Shokin’s claims have no basis in reality. He was fired for incompetence and failing to crack down on corruption,” writes the Financial Times’ Ukraine correspondent Christopher Miller.

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) mocked Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer, writing on social media, “Ummm @RepJamesComer call your office.”

White House spokesperson Ian Sams went further, while pointing out the allegation just evaporated.

READ MORE: Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’

“Not only does he play a leading role in the conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News personalities – he is central to the conspiracy theories animating extreme House Republicans’ baseless, fact-free impeachment stunt against President Biden,” Sams wrote. “Yet another allegation goes *poof*”

Watch the video below or at this link.


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