A recent story out of Texas highlights the legal dangers LGBTQ couples face in states that do not recognize gay marriage or civil unions. Lon Watts and his partner Jim Heath lived together for over three decades as a couple. After Heath began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease about six years ago, he gave Watts power of attorney, allowing Watts to make decisions on his behalf.
Then, in 2011, Watts noticed that Heath appeared to be ailing and called 911. Heath was admitted to the hospital, but when Watts got there he was forced to leave because Heath’s sister, Carolyn Franks, had him escorted out of the building.
Then, a couple weeks later, Franks petitioned a Texas court and asked to be named guardian over Heath. Watts says that the court never notified him of the guardianship process, and that Franks claimed that Watts had been negligent in caring for her brother.
The court granted the petition and named Franks guardian. After that, Franks had Watts removed from the home he had shared with Heath because the home was in Heath’s name. She also removed Heath to a nursing home facility and has prevented Watts from visiting.
Ever since the story first came to light on Watts’ Facebook page he’s received an outpouring of online support. Some people have also donated money to help them establish a legal defense fund to fight for his ability to be with his partner.