The Gay Man Arrested for Refusing to Leave Sick Partner in Hospital is Father of WeAreAtheism.com Founder

This story has been all over the Internet today: A gay man was arrested at a hospital for refusing to leave his sick partner because he wasn’t recognized as a “family member.”

What you may not know is that Roger Gorley, the man arrested, is the father of Amanda Brown, one of the founders of WeAreAtheism.com and coordinator of the Reasonfest conference:

Amanda wrote a much more detailed and personal version of the story on her website and it’s the version you’ll want to start passing around to people in your social circles:

My father, Roger Gorley, and his husband, Allen Mansell have been married for nearly 5 years. They have shared a home together, purchased cars together, have all of their investments, and any other paperwork taken care of to be considered a real marriage under the law. In the state of Missouri civil unions are not recognized but many same-sex couples go ahead and follow through with the paperwork and register it with the state so they can be recognized as a significant life partner to the other person in moments such as these and especially after the death of their loved one. My fathers did this. They did all of the paperwork so something like what I’m about to tell you happened would never happen to them.

The nurse had had enough at this point and asked my father to leave. He gave her a surprised look back and said “No I’m staying with my husband.” She responded with “I know who you two are. You need to leave.” My father took this as she had treated Allen before, knew who my father was to him, and was making the decision that they didn’t have the right to one another as husband and husband. So instead of checking the file to see his power of attorney in his medical chart (they each have one for each other) she immediately called the police and had my father forcibly removed.

There was no reason it needed to escalate to this point where Roger was arrested. He has no criminal history of any kind and has never disregarded a direct order from a police officer until that day. My father is an amazing man who has overcome many obstacles in his life and has finally found the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with.

We are all human beings. We are all born the same way. We should all have the same equal protections under the law regardless of sexual orientation. It is time America, to end this discrimination. It is time for every person to pursue happiness in whatever manner that person sees fit, as long as its safe, sane, and consensual there should be no problem. We are all capable of love. We are all in the pursuit of this at one point or another in our lives. If this was your partner would you have let go of their hand?

Ugh… it’s such an awful and beautiful story all at once. Awful because of what Amanda’s family is going through right now, beautiful because of the outpouring of support for her father from all over the world.

Amanda and Roger are scheduled to appear on CNN tomorrow afternoon around 2:00p (ET) but those things can change. Either way, I’ll post the clip whenever it’s available.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/msmarph Mike

    “We are all capable of love.” Sorry gotta disagree with you on that. Clearly that nurse has no love in heart. She’s in the wrong business. As a healthcare professional I can’t believe a nurse would inflict pain on a family member like that.

    • pete084

      Nurses are human beings too, with the same falibilities as the rest of the human race. I worked with a number of nurses on missions in Africa, some made me think their only reason for being there was to make their resume look good.

    • Goldstein

      You don’t know that. We don’t know exactly what she did, and how bad Gorley was acting. You also have no idea what she had gone through that day…and obviously no one cares…or how much pressure she was under.
      There is more coming out about this story.

  • C Peterson

    A perfect example of clouds with silver linings. It is precisely these sorts of egregious violations of individual rights that change the hearts and minds of ordinary people, who might otherwise simply continue through life with the prejudices they picked up from their culture. When confronted with a human story like this, the intrinsic goodness that most people share comes to the surface. Society changes.

  • ortcutt

    “My father, Roger Gorley, and his husband, Allen Mansell have been married for nearly 5 years. They have shared a home together, purchased cars together, have all of their investments, and any other paperwork taken care of to be considered a real marriage under the law.”

    I find this really confusing. Were they married in another state? If they are married, then why are they being referred to as partners. Legal status is very important in these cases, and illustrates why marriage equality is so important.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

      If they are legally married, it would have to have been in another state. Missouri doesn’t allow same-sex marriages, and it also doesn’t recognize those performed elsewhere.

      • ortcutt

        That does highlight the importance of the issue for all Americans. I live in a state that has marriage equality, but a same-sex couple from here who traveled through Missouri and found themselves in a hospital could find themselves in the same situation. I know how important it would be for me to stay with my wife in an emergency, and it’s unjust and cruel that same-sex couples go through this.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’m pretty sure I recall Adam Brown mentioning that they had gotten married in a different state, or perhaps it was even Ontario?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        In this case ‘married’ is what Amanda uses because that’s what she feels they are. There are no government entities that consider them married, only Civil Unioned (and of course MO doesn’t recognize that, but it is suppose to recognize Power of Attorney)

        (Thanks Adam)

        • I Smell Money

          Amanda gave the impression they were married, she even said so. That would imply they were married in a state that allowed gay marriage.
          Turns out they weren’t.
          Her whole story is now suspect.
          I note she got a Donation Site up and running in just a few hours.
          Sweet.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I know a heterosexual couple who were married in a church ceremony but for reasons of their own, not legally. Everyone knows and refers to them as husband and wife .

            Really, what would it change? Everyone in the situation knows the married couple consider themselves married. Or do the patient’s wishes not matter?

    • Heather

      Amanda goes into more detail on this in her blog post.

      • Trina

        Didn’t Amanda pose nude on the Women of Atheism Calendar?
        She needs to lose some weight.

      • TheBlackCat13

        Oh good, the comment was deleted. My jaw about hit the floor when I saw it in my email inbox.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    Wow.

    It sounded like there were also shades of mental health stigmatization in this drama.

    Allen’s family has never understood his condition, his medical
    treatments, and why it takes the amount of medication it does in order
    for him to maintain his ability to live from day to day.

  • Sara

    Thing is, this doesn’t just happen to LGBT, although it’s awful that this was the motivating factor here. The hospital would not tell my mom that her boyfriend had coded even though she brought him in and he listed her as the person to contact! They don’t seem to recognize ANY other form of relationship.

    • Marco Conti

      I have had the misfortune to be both a patient in a hospital many times and the visiting spouse when my wife was ill.

      I find it really funny that they hold marriage in so high regard because not once in 25 years of marriage I was asked to provide proof I was indeed the husband and as far as I know neither has my wife. The fact that we proclaimed ourselves husband and wife seemed to be enough in all cases.

      In fact, my wife and I were married in another country, not in the US. WHen I sponsored her to become a legal resident in the US was the one and only time I was asked for a marriage certificate.

      • amycas

        My fiance and I had a problem at a hospital about a year ago. Ever since then, we’ve agreed if either one of us is in the hospital that we will refer to the other one as husband and/or wife. He’s even in my phone under “husband.”

  • TheG

    This is a major problem that isn’t really adressed within the atheist community enough. No, not the rights of everyone to equal treatment under the law (I think atheists in general have proven time and again to be supportive of the gay community).

    As a nurse, I see all too often the amount of religiosity that healthcare workers, but especially the nurses, embrace as a core part of their practices. In hospitals, most doctors I’ve seen are secular, even when religious, in their treatment. It is usually the administration and the staff nurses that have to flaunt their faith. As highlighted specifically in this case, nursing staff can often substitute what is best for their own religion over what is best practice for the patients and their families.

    I see support for nurses of all denominations to assist their faith (hey, it really is a pretty tough job working in critical care or any of the other acute care settings), but once I put on my scrubs, I don’t see even the token acceptance of atheism that I get in the public arena. The nurses suffer and the patients/families sure as heck are worse for it.

    It is very rare that I accidentally find another atheist nurse, although I can tell you the sect and often home church of the religious ones. And I’ve worked from the Pacific Northwest to the former home of the Klan in rural Florida.

    I think this would be a great area of focus and awareness if anyone had the resources and disregard for their own career to chisel out a new front for the cause.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      I think you should start a blog or video blog on atheist nursing. You would of course anonymize patient identities but share the perspectives of an atheist nurse. You would soon have other atheist nurses finding you. Some among you could write a book, or offer perspectives when news stories come up about religious craziness impairing medical care, etc. Just tossing the idea your way…

    • Liam

      My mother-in-law, whose position as a nurse TERRIFIES me on a regular basis, used to baptize (she’s a Catholic) all the newborn infants in the hospital with her spit. I really wish I was making this up. She will be getting zero alone time with my son when he’s born in July.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        I’m not sure which surprises me more: that she would act on her own to baptize other people’s children, or that she thinks spit is sufficient for the ritual.

        So… If water content is all that matters, we could improve baptisms by using something fun like spaghetti sauce or beer.

        • sunburned

          I just was not expecting this to end with spaghetti sauce or beer…..

          • Heather

            HAHA! Just think how pleased the FSM would be if we did start using spaghetti sauce!

        • C Peterson

          She’s just doing literally what Christians have been doing figuratively for 2000 years. Spitting on people’s skin, spitting on people’s sensibility; there’s not much difference.

      • blasphemous_kansan

        Hopefully she’s never carried out this ritual on babies who are born with compromised immune systems, or skin disorders such as epidermolysis bullosa.

        Her little ritual could kill or maim an infant, if it hasn’t already.

      • liu

        Sooo… you’re saying that your mother-in-law, who is a nurse, goes out of her way to spread her saliva on newborn infants? Don’t you think that you should maybe report her to the hospital? You know, before one of the babies dies due to her idiotic and downright criminal practices?

      • Sue Blue

        She risks infecting these infants with herpes simplex, resistant streptococcal disease, and nasty aeruginosa infections. Newborns do not have fully functioning immune systems and depend on the antibodies in their mother’s breast milk for protection for the first few months of life. This nurse should be reported.

    • Sue Blue

      Hey, I’m an atheist nurse! I too have encountered religiosity among nurses. From the “respect” we are supposed to express for even the most blatant quackery under the guise of “alternative medicine” to outright harassment by religious nurses, I’ve seen it all. When I was a student one of my nurse mentors was an evangelical Christian who constantly badgered me about my “beliefs” and how I could not possibly truly care about my patients if I didn’t have “Jesus in my heart”, and how all atheists were smug, cold, analytical, and uncaring. I finally complained to my dean of nursing and I was transferred to another facility for the rest of my mentorship. I recommended that this nurse not be used as a mentor again. Hopefully, she wasn’t.

      • Goldstein

        And how would you treat a patient who would not stop talking about their beliefs to you?

        • baal

          Patients aren’t the same as people who are training you to do a job. It’s not hard for an atheist to sympathize with a fellow human in a hospital bed. It is hard to sympathize with a supervisor getting on your back for having the wrong religion.

  • PietPuk

    And the Heartless Bitch Award of the year goes to….

    • Pattrsn

      And the most gratuitous use of a sexist slur award goes to….

      • PietPuk

        Don’t worry, men can be bithes too. And nurses.

        • Pattrsn

          Sorry but that really isn’t much of an excuse, after all if you use the ‘N word’ to insult a white person doesn’t make it any less a racist slur. If you don’t believe me try it and see what kind of reaction you get.

          • PietPuk

            In my part of the world ‘Bitch’ is just as common as ‘Asshole’ and equally accepted by men and women.
            So I am sorry if you take offence, but it won’t change the way I use cuss words.

            • Pattrsn

              It’s my dream that someday people realize that their audience on the internet isn’t the same as in their parents rec-room.

              • PietPuk

                I don’t want to keep you from dreaming, but maybe you could look into accepting that the world is changing and words change their meaning. Just look at the women that call themselfs the Godless Bitches, amazing atheist and feminists.

                • Pattrsn

                  It doesn’t make the word an less offensive. If some women want to refer to themselves as “bitches”, that’s their prerogative, just like it is for gays to refer to themselves as “fags”. It’s worlds away from men/straight people to use them as insults in reference to women/gays.

                • PietPuk

                  Offense is taken, not given.
                  And just like the word ‘Gay’ now means other things than it used to.

                • Ibis3

                  FFS That usage is ironic. Yours on the other hand is sexist and unwelcome.

                • PietPuk

                  And by using it ironic, they are changing what it means.
                  Men also get called ‘Bitches’ so I don’t see the sexism in that.

                • Pattrsn

                  Are you just being deliberately obtuse? Feigning ignorance because you aren’t able to own up to having said something stupid?

                  It’s not complicated, when you use a sexist slur to insult a woman then you’re reinforcing the use of the word as a sexist slur. Because, and this seems to be the part you keep getting wrong, you are actually using the phrase as a sexist slur, you’re actively undermining any attempt to “change what it means”. It really isn’t difficult to not use sexist or racist language, it costs nothing, except perhaps you might have to expend a little extra mental energy.

                  “Men also get called ‘Bitches’ so I don’t see the sexism in that.”

                  Seriously you don’t? Let me spell this one out for you. It is considered degrading to imply that a man is feminine or female because women are valued less than men. Calling a man a “bitch” is implying that he is like a woman, and so less than a man, just like inferring that a straight man is gay is insulting, because due to homophobia, being gay is considered a bad thing to be.

                  Again none of this is very complicated, you might have to read up a little on what sexism is, how it affects women and how it’s expressed, but I find that whenever you’re arguing a position on something, it’s always a good thing to know what you’re actually arguing about.

                • PietPuk

                  I am using the term ‘Bitch’ to discribe a persons actions, not a persons gender.
                  I realise you want to see it differently, please don’t make that my problem.

                • Pattrsn

                  Did you not read my post or are you just not mentally capable of addressing any of the points I made?

                • PietPuk

                  Clearly you keep wanting it to stay sexist. Maybe work on that.

                • Ibis3

                  Calling a straight boy a faggot is still a homophobic slur. Calling a white man a nigger is still a racist slur. Aside from which, your initial comment was calling a woman a bitch. Oh, and using a term ironically doesn’t “change its meaning”. You are displaying your idiocy to the world. As you can tell from the fact that your initial comment has been deleted, sexist slurs are not welcome on this blog.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

            It’s not really sexist when Jesse Pinkman uses it. It’s more like a period – something to let you know he’s done with the sentence.

  • Ross

    Ugh, this makes me sick (no pun intended). Can’t the police be sued for false arrest or the hospital personnel for something? I can’t believe it’s not a crime to remove someone who has power of attorney from the bedside of someone who has granted it to him/her. It smacks of kidnapping or false imprisonment or something!

  • blasphemous_kansan

    Ok, so I’ve read Mr. Gorley’s remarks, and the hospital’s statement, and I can’t help thinking that more facts are needed before the outrage is needed. As I see it seems like there’s two possible scenerios:

    1) Mr. Gorley shows up, one of his husband’s family members is a homophobic bigot who tells him to leave, and Mr. Gorley basically says “Screw you, I have a right to be here”. Escalation, loud argument, police are called.

    2) Mr. Gorley shows up and one of his husband’s family members says “No one can be in the room right now because of “, and Mr. Gorley refuses to leave, he interferes with the treatment of his husband, and police are called.

    If 1) above happened then Mr. Gorley was severely wronged and all outrage about this story is completely justified.

    But if this statement released by the hospital “This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient.” is even a little bit true, then Mr. Gorley absolutely should have been at least removed from the premises, regardless of his legal ties to the patient.
    I think the clarification of Mr. Gorley’s actions in reference to the treatment status of his husband at the time is a really important part of the story, and one I haven’t heard explained fully yet other than the hospital’s statement. Is there any more information? I mean, if the hospital was trying to take his husband to an operating room at the time that he refused to leave his bedside, I think that’s an important detail. Of course, that’s only if the hospital’s statement is accurate.

    To answer the last question of Ms. Brown’s very gracious statement:

    >>”If this was your partner would you have let go of their hand?”

    Absolutely not, but if I hold too tightly then they’ll never get a decent blood pressure reading!

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Ok, I initially missed the section in Ms. Brown’s account where the patient’s brother attempts to take control over the medical decisions for his brother. If that happened, that’s really fucked up, and most of what I said above is irrelevant.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Ya, I was about to point out that it doesn’t seem like anybody else was asked to leave. And considering the nature of the case, I can’t see what medical procedure he would be interfering with.

    • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

      You are right in holding this story to the same standard of critical thinking as any other. Before outrage, we need the whole story. Too often, we follow emotions and wind up with lost credibility and “crisis fatigue”.

      • Pattrsn

        As an RN, I’ve had to deal with all kinds of abusive assholish family members. Some of whom I’ve had to ask to leave for their behaviour, some because they’re just too damn many of them and they’re getting in the way or tiring out my pt, crowding the halls etc. However to actually call the cops on a visitor either a legally recognized spouse or significant other and have them arrested? They would have to be exhibiting some pretty extreme behaviour, they would have to constitute a risk to either staff or pt.

        • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

          I agree with you. I don’t know what to hope here, except resolution of the situation. I feel bad for the couple.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’ve been reading more about this. It seems fairly clear that Mr. Gorley is the wronged party, entirely and completely. Mr. Mansell’s brother improperly called the police to involuntarily commit Mr. Mansell, attempted to present himself as Mr. Mansell’s health care advocate (even though Mr. Gorley has a power of attorney on file with the hospital), and became belligerent when Mr. Gorley went to visit Mr. Mansell. Mr. Mansell actually requested that Mr. Gorley remain, but his wishes (the patient’s wishes!) were not respected.

      Now it is possible the the Internet is only presenting one erroneous side of the story, but I haven’t seen any counter-stories at all. The story as presented hangs together all too well, including the hospital’s vague and unconvincing statements. The hospital clearly screwed up badly, even if not every detail is accurate; just how badly remains to be seen.

  • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

    It’s very hard to guess the “whole story” on this story. It should be held to the same standards as Hemant discussed on previous posts, where we try to know as much of the story as possible and avoid jumping to conclusions. SOMETHING happened, but it’s hard to sort out untold details.

    Ii say this as someone whose emotions and experiences side with Mr. Gorley. And also who works in a medical field and have felt, but could never prove, that I have been discriminated against. But the information in Mr. Gorley’s case is too limited, and mostly one-sided.

    Part of the limitation, is ethical and legal requirement to protect patient confidentiality. The hospital can not release information regarding the patient’s medical condition, or about exactly what happened in the hospital room, except in vague terms. That means they can be accused, but may not be able to defend themselves in the press. I was surprised they said as much as they did – I”m sure even that much had to be vetted through the hospital’s lawyers for compliance with federal patient confidentiality laws.

    Speculation is just that – speculation. I can see / have seen, situations where a family member interferes with a patients’ care. That in the straight world, not just LGBT patients.

    It is easy to jump on the hospital, and the nurse, as being discriminatory. If they really were, shame on them.

    • Sue Blue

      Typically in a hospital setting, people are not escorted out by hospital security or police unless they are causing a major disruption or posing a threat to their own safety or that of others. These are called “code grays” in the hospital where I work, and they are usually called for people under the influence of drugs and alcohol who are belligerent and/or violent. If Mr. Gorley was escorted out by police simply because the nurse did not approve of his relationship to the patient, then that is truly egregious discrimination. However, if he verbally or physically abused or threatened the nurse, patient(s), or other hospital staff, then he should have been escorted out. Somehow, I doubt that he did that, though.

  • MariaO

    About fifty years ago I spent a long winter in a childrens’ hospital. Parents where grudgingly allowed three one-hour visits a week – but were told it was better if they stayed away. Grandparents were not allowed, not even on Xmas (my two grandmothers tried, but could not get through the nurses).
    But the worst was that to the nurses it was MUCH more important to become a “good” child than to become a healthy child.
    That kind of nurses are much rarer today, but they still exist. I think they go into the profession because they get a huge kick out of being able to bully vulnerable people.

    • Noelle

      These days, a family member is expected to stay with a child for the entire hospital stay. It makes much more sense. The child has a familiar person there to comfort them in a boring and scary place, and the nurses can do their work instead of babysitting.

  • lorimakesquilts

    Thanks for the link to Ms. Brown’s account of the incident.

    Nurses are called on to do difficult work and juggle a lot and I have a great deal of respect for them but that nurse should be fired. Normally I wouldn’t advocate such a harsh response but her incompetence resulted in someone being assaulted and arrested by the police — there’s nothing that can make that go away for Mr. Gorley.

    It wouldn’t hurt for Mr. Mansell to take out a restraining order or two on his family as well. They are as much to blame as anyone, and they assuredly aren’t acting with familial love.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
    • Fetal Lawyer

      Looks like its not doing so well.

      Not to worry, the Kansas City Municipal Court has plenty of hacks lawyers hanging around who can get you out of most crap for a few hundred bucks.

      Should be no problem.

      • Fetal Lawyer

        Unless it turns out that Mr Gorley misrepresented his marital status, of course.

        Were they actually married in a state that allows gay marriage or not?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          They have a civil union. Which although not recognized by the state of Missouri, the hospital (assuming it receives federal funds) is required to honor. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2011/01/hospital_visitation_rights_for.html

        • baal

          From Anne posting on JT’s blog, same sex partners get to be at the hospital.

          Also, you’re entirely missing the point. Two people who presented to the world that they were married were denied the right to see each other in the hospital. This blog post and comments is about the cruelty of denying a patent the comfort of a visit of a loved one. Since there is a cruel event, current law is bad so far as it supports this outcome. It’s not clear that the hospital was acting within the law regardless of Mr. Gorley’s statements.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Sexist slurs won’t be tolerated in this thread or anywhere else. A commenter has been removed from this site for doing that.

  • Michael

    Please know that there are many praying for Roger and his Partner. This is a terrible situation. Pray for the nurse too – who obviously needs guidance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/louisquinze Hilary Cook

    I’m confused – where does religion or not come into this? Surely this situation could have been handled on the level of respect for persons as human beings……properly taking notice of their preferred options, as seemingly they were charted……as an ex-nurse i don’t remember personal bias being a ground for dealing with patient or visitor………..


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