In These Times has a moving interview this month with rancher Samuel K. Beaumont, whose five-year legal battle to keep the Bristow, Okla., ranch that he and his late partner, Earl Meadows, shared for 24 years is chronicled in the documentary film "Tying the Knot." After Meadows died in 2000, "a gaggle of his long-lost cousins went to court and evicted Beaumont from the 80-acre ranch, taking at once his home and his livelihood." The case is not unlike Laurel Hester's battle to leave her pension benefits to her gay partner, though where Hester's story led to a change in New Jersey policy Beaumont has encountered much resistance.
Beaumont and Meadows raised five children on the ranch -- three from Beaumont's previous relationship with a woman and two who "we kind of adopted along the way," Beaumont says. Although Meadows left the ranch to Beaumont in his will, which was also signed by a notary public, the judge hearing the case decided that another signature was required.
In the interview, Beaumont, who is 62, speaks candidly about his deep love for Meadows and the life they created on the ranch, and how the legal battle has caused him tremendous heartache and cost him tens of thousands of dollars. Bristow is a town of 4,300 in what is generally thought of as a conservative state, but as tempting as it is to divide the country neatly into red and blue, that dichotomy hardly tells the whole story. Beaumont says that he never felt discriminated against while he and Meadows were raising their sons in Bristow. "There wasn't nothing like that against us. We got along good. Most of the upper crust of town Earl knew well. They didn't care, and we didn't push it on them. Most of them had known Earl most of his life. He was born in Bristow. He'd went to school with them, college with some of them. We never had any problems."
In These Times reminds readers that in November, Defense of Marriage Acts will appear on ballots in Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Idaho, Virginia and Wisconsin. Despite the fact that Beaumont and Meadows were accepted in their Oklahoma town, the national political climate is not in their favor. "He didn't have the balls," Beaumont remarked dispiritedly of the judge who ruled against them. One can only imagine the discrimination the marriage acts would legitimate; and it seems like we'll need a lot more than balls to fight it.