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A Real Life Brokeback Tragedy

Beaumont_samSam Beaumont's Brokeback Mountain was a spot near the Arkansas River where he met his partner Earl Meadows in 1977 for the first time.

"It was a pretty day -- January 15th, 65 degrees," Beaumont said. "He came up, we got to talkin' till 2 in the morning. I don't even remember what we said." But "I knew it was something special."

Sam and Earl settled down together, and actually took the Jack Twist fantasy of owning "a little calf and cow operation" with his partner and made it their reality, a kind of Brokeback utopia that went on for 25 years.

One of Beaumont's sons remembers life with Meadows fondly: "As far as I was concerned, I had two dads."

Unfortunately, Beaumont and Meadows' Oklahoma ranch, where they raised Beaumont's three sons together, was taken from Beaumont in 1999 after Meadows died of a stroke. Meadows had no surviving parents or biological children, but there was a will that provided for his longtime partner. But because that will was short one witness signature, a cousin of Meadows was able to successfully wrest control of the ranch, a piece of property worth $100,000, in which Beaumont had invested twice that. Beaumont's emotional investment was most likely far greater.

Imagine the pain of having the home where you'd raised your kids and lived for 25 years with your partner being pulled from under you. Sadly, I'm afraid this isn't the first or the last time this has happened in our country.

Last year Oklahoma added a discriminatory amendment to its constitution barring same-sex couples from ever having their unions recognized or from receiving any of the rights of married couples.

To add insult to injury, the cousins are suing Beaumont for back rent for the 25 years he lived on the ranch with Meadows.

Partner's Death Ends Happy Life on the Ranch [indianapolis star]

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  1. Anyone know if there is a legal defense fund? Are the ACLU or Lamdba getting involved?

    Posted by: ted | Jan 17, 2006 2:25:29 PM

  2. Good feeling, gone.

    Posted by: david | Jan 17, 2006 2:25:50 PM

  3. That's truly awful. I sometimes think everything is hunky dory and that being gay is not the issue it once was. But then I read stories like this which remind me that my life in NYC isn't the norm. Terribly sad.

    Posted by: jon | Jan 17, 2006 2:28:37 PM

  4. Sam was profiled in the 2004 gay marriage documentary, Tying The Knot. More info:

    Posted by: Ariel | Jan 17, 2006 2:38:48 PM

  5. This is a perfect example of why marriage and equality under the law are so important for gay couples.

    I get so angry when my friends say that marriage isn't important and that they don't care if the government recognizes their relationship or not. THIS is what happens when the government doesn't recognize our relationships.

    And a good lesson to us all to make the effort to take advantage of the legal protections that we do have. Double check our wills, power of attorney, etc.

    And shame on the family for taking Beaumont's livelyhood away. And then to try and get rent out of him? The real crime in this is the thievery the family is committing.

    Posted by: Ladd | Jan 17, 2006 2:46:02 PM

  6. I'm from Oklahoma. Grew up there. My whole family still lives there... they're a little collection of progressive straight people in a vast sea of right wing Republicans. I've been to Bristow. It's a backwater inbred armpit of a town, full of people made fat not just by lots of greasy Taco Bell value meals but also by years of ignorance, self-righteousness, and scorn. It's insane what they've done to this man, and I'm sure they're cloaking it all with a fetid, sticky blanket of Christian self-satisfaction. It's disgusting, and that's why I got out of there the second I had a chance. But the fact is, we shouldn't have to flee to the cities. We should be able to live anywhere we want. Equal means equal in any language in the world. Either we're equal citizens under the law, or we're not. If we're not, then we as a country should admit it and make it plain rather than blather on about "liberty and justice for all".

    I wonder, though, with the mean spirited amendment to the constitution there, whether it would have mattered had they had that extra signature. Wouldn't that have been giving the surviving partner a "benefit that approximates marriage"?

    Fat, bloated, nasty, hateful, spiteful, inbred, Baptist, holy-rollin', bigoted white trash. A whole state of them. This story hit a little close to home for me. I'm mad as hell now. Thanks.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 17, 2006 3:29:18 PM

  7. absolutley horrible! this country is so messed up sometimes. To think that, that mans own family obviously didn't except him, to then turn around and ruin the 3 son's lives as well as his partners. And to continue to cause havoc. so sad, so tragic.

    Posted by: karen | Jan 17, 2006 3:37:14 PM

  8. How in the hell do they think they can get back rent from the guy if they didn't own the land during the time he lived there? That is unbelievably asinine!

    Posted by: Michael W. | Jan 17, 2006 4:14:19 PM

  9. I also wonder if there is a way we can help this guy out? I'm going to forward the link to the ACLU, but does anyone have any better insight into how we might do something for this guy?

    I'm seething with anger.

    Posted by: Carmen | Jan 17, 2006 4:54:41 PM

  10. Thanks for posting this. It's one of the most horrible and disgusting things I've heard in a while. I sat in a packed theater in Tulsa, OK (about 30 minutes and a world away from Bristow) earlier this month to watch Brokeback Mountain with an incredibly diverse group of people. It was an uplifting experience, but stories like this quickly snap me back to the reality that outside my narrow parameters lays a big hateful world.
    Brian is right. This mostly boils down to a culture of fundamentalist Christian repression and profound ignorance and self-righteousness. And the degree of control which we are currently seeing this faction exercise on our national political landscape has been at work in Oklahoma for decades (in both parties).
    I'm not "from" here and can objectively say this isn't the spirit of Oklahoma. The state was founded by misfits and people who didn't follow society's rules - people who followed the model of live and let live. These are the kind of folks you would never call "pro-gay," but they would stand up for their neighbor no matter what. Let's hope that spirit will survive and outlive hatred wearing the mask of righteousness.

    Posted by: Thom | Jan 17, 2006 4:55:13 PM

  11. Here's more on this story, including the address where you can send a donation to help this man. Turns out the house he was going to move into, a one-bedroom home no bigger than most apartments, was ransacked recently. They even took the electrical fixtures and kitchen cabinets.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 17, 2006 5:12:46 PM

  12. This is so disturbing, it makes me want to scream. Please, if you are in a relationship, do everything that you can to make sure that both of you are protected. I know in an ideal world it would involve a long night in Las Vegas, a few cocktails and a Elvis impersonator, but alas, we do not live in an ideal world. I hope that someone manages to help this guy out and somehow get his ranch back

    Posted by: jon | Jan 17, 2006 5:18:37 PM

  13. Stories like this is why I think we should all move to one part of the country and create our own state, elect our own representatives, make our own laws.

    I am sick of this BS

    Posted by: Alfredo | Jan 17, 2006 5:44:36 PM

  14. I'm with Alfredo on this one.

    Posted by: Rob (lrdarystar) | Jan 17, 2006 6:03:10 PM

  15. Would the cousin have been able to succesfully do what he did due to the lack of that one signature if this couple had been legally married?

    Posted by: Chad Hanging | Jan 17, 2006 11:54:15 PM

  16. No word can best describe what these evil people has done to this poor guy.

    If being involve with a same-sex partner is a sin, then what would the Conservative Christian Community would think about these acts? It really frustrates me when people in power manipulate everyone through their religion.

    "Give Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar.. and give God what belongs to God," we need to separate the religion from the state, it is clearly stated in the Christian Holy Bible.

    It does not take a supernatural power to see what's going on here is very bad. I hope that someone can help this guy and his three kids. I will pray for you to get what you deserve.

    Posted by: KulitPinoy | Jan 18, 2006 3:20:41 AM

  17. i hope youll keep us updated as his story see's progress.

    btw, ive been a silent reader for month now. And i LOVE this site, its on my daily routine. Keep up the excellent work.

    Posted by: TheBalladeer | Jan 18, 2006 4:52:13 AM

  18. My stomach just flipped; I live with a very real concern that the home my partner and I have shared for 25 years will someday fall to some relative of his that crawls out of the proverbial woodwork. We have supposed 'iron-clad' wills; 'thanks' for the reminder to revisit and rethink this topic.

    Posted by: Michael Guy | Jan 18, 2006 10:16:57 AM

  19. Hi all,

    No need to tell the ACLU about this... I work at the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project and just wanted to let you know we did help out with Sam's case, which is now long over. I'm glad to see his situation is getting some renewed interest and attention lately.

    Before we got involved a couple of years ago, I visited Sam at the ranch in Bristow, and he's a great guy with wonderful sons who love and support him. He has a great local attorney so he didn't need direct representation, but the ACLU did give his lawyer some advice on constitutional precedents and submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on his behalf. Unfortunately, Oklahoma law was just *totally* against all of us on this.

    1049 Films, which featured Sam in its documentary "Tying the Knot," has been collecting funds for Sam for some time. There's information on how to donate here.

    Sam is also going to be featured in a couple of months on the ACLU's "Freedom Files" television show, which airs on Link and Court TV.

    Chris Hampton
    Public Education Associate
    ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights and AIDS Projects

    Posted by: Chris Hampton | Jan 18, 2006 10:56:24 AM

  20. Hmm -- apparently I can't post links in comments, so I guess you'll have to copy and paste these into your browser...

    The 1049 Films page with info on donating funds for Sam is at

    And the ACLU "Freedom Files" website is

    Posted by: Chris Hampton | Jan 18, 2006 10:59:34 AM

  21. >>receiving any of the rights of married couples

    It's a shame that so many people don't look into estate planning until it's too late. We all feel like we have plenty of time, and then suddenly, time's up. This isn't an entirely Gay problem. The same thing could have happened to an unmarried heterosexual couple.

    My heart goes out to Sam, and I don't mean to criticize him or Earl in any way, but there are legal means to ensure that the person of your choice inherits your estate. That has to be the important lesson learned here. There are means of protecting those you love. It's tragic that Sam and Earl didn't plan ahead, and it's disgusting that our legal system makes it harder on some couples than others. Still, until things change, Gay couples will have to take those extra steps, to see that when something awful happens, our loved ones are properly taken care of.

    I have family in OK, and I plan to retire there in a few years. In fact, Wewoka is one of the areas where I've been searching for property. I'll probably be run out of town for my Liberal views, but I intend to be politically active there. The problem seems to be population density. Except for Tulsa and OK City, most of the state is rural,conservative, and widely scattered. It's hard to unite people in a cause, when they live miles from their neighbors, and decades away from the 21st Century.

    Posted by: Jay Croce | Jan 18, 2006 11:07:38 PM

  22. I am so very appalled by this story. I feel for Sam and his children who have had to fight for simple rights that everyone should have, no matter what race, sexual orientation, etc. I am a silent reader of this blog and today is the first time I have ever posted on a topic. I wish Sam and his family the best...and everyone else out there who has to deal with even the thoughts that this could happen to them.
    Thanks to this site for giving great feedback and stories for all interests.

    Posted by: jeterfan1978 | Jan 21, 2006 7:55:15 PM

  23. This is public information: It seems very unfair, as the law appears to have been followed to the I'nth degree, legally and properly, but very unfairly.

    On September 25, counsel for Samuel Beaumont filed a petition for
    certiorari with the U.S. Supreme
    Court, seeking review of an unpublished decision by the Oklahoma Court
    of Civil Appeals which had
    rejected all the legal theories Beaumont had asserted in attempting to
    keep the ranch that his late
    partner, Earl Meadows, had intended for his inheritance. _Beaumont v.
    Castator, Executor of the Estate
    of Earl Wayne Meadows_, No. 04-271 (opinion below, _In the Matter of the
    Estate of Earl Wayne
    Meadows, Deceased_, No. 98,379 (Okla. Ct. Civ. App., February 13, 2004),
    rev. denied by
    Oklahoma S.Ct., June 1, 2004.)

    The case presents the all too common problem of judicial formalism
    standing in the way of effectuating
    the intent of lay people, under circumstances where the foiled desires
    of the decedent are unmistakable
    and essentially uncontested. Beaumont and Meadows had lived together as
    a family unit, together with
    Beaumont's three sons, who they raised together, on ranch land given to
    Meadows by his parents (who
    treated the sons as their grandchildren). Beaumont, a disabled war
    veteran, had stayed at home,
    contributing his disability pension proceeds to the bank account
    maintained by Meadows, who worked
    as the comptroller at a nearby factory. Beaumont was a full-time dad
    who also worked the ranch,
    making repairs, raising stock and farming.

    Meadows designated Beaumont as his beneficiary on his life insurance and
    retirement accounts, and
    made out a will leaving everything to Beaumont, but, as the court found,
    the will was not witnessed and
    notarized in compliance with formal requirements of Oklahoma law.
    Beaumont nursed Meadows'
    parents through their final illnesses, and provided the same loving
    service for Meadows. But when
    Beaumont presented the will for probate to the Creek County District
    Court, Judge Richard Woolery
    found it formally defective, rejected Beaumont's alternative theories of
    oral contract, constructive trust,
    or other equitable theories, and awarded the intestate estate to
    Meadows' five first cousins, who were
    not close to the couple.

    On appeal, Beaumont attained amicus assistance from the ACLU Lesbian &
    Gay Rights Projects,
    which raised constitutional claims, but the court, in an opinion by
    Judge Kenneth L. Buettner, found
    those claims barred as they had not been made to the trial judge.

    The court rejected the proposition that there was an enforceable oral
    contract binding on the estate,
    finding that Beaumont had not moved onto the ranch, performed his work
    there, and taken care of the
    senior Meadows and his partner, as consideration for a promise to leave
    him the ranch, but rather that
    he and his sons had moved on to the ranch to form a family with Meadows.

    While courts have enforced promises of an inheritance as contractually
    binding when they were given to
    induce somebody to do something for the decedent during his lifetime,
    Buettner found that the significant
    element of consideration was missing here. "There had to be proof that
    the men formed their relationship
    in order to inherit from each other," he wrote. After recounting the
    existing case law, he said, "What is
    evident from these cases is that the services performed would not have
    been performed except for the
    contract to devise property. . . The record does not support a
    conclusion that Beaumont formed his
    relationship with Meadows for the purpose of someday inheriting all of
    Meadow's [sic] property. The
    men desired to be a family. Beaumont did not show that he lived with
    Meadows for twenty-four years
    in a loving, committed relationship for the purpose of inheriting. The
    services that Beaumont performed
    were not unique or extraordinary. Rather, they were the sort of
    services two or more people living
    together, regardless of intimacy, do for each other."

    Rejecting the argument that the will should have been admitted in
    support of finding Meadows' intent to
    contract with Beaumont, the court observed that "even if admitted for
    that purpose, evidence of intent to
    leave Beaumont the estate, it would not be evidence of a 1977 oral
    contract to leave him the estate.
    The trial court was entitled to find that their agreement was to be a
    family, on equal footing. A finding of
    no contract to devise property is not against the weight of the

    The court also rejected the argument that it should impose a
    constructive trust on the property in order
    to avoid unjust enrichment of Meadows' intestate heirs. While
    acknowledging that the inheritance was a
    "windfall" for the heirs, the court pointed out that intestate heirs
    don't "earn" their inheritance, to which
    they are entitled by operation of law when somebody dies without leaving
    a valid will. Thus, there is no
    unfair enrichment. To try to make this point from another perspective,
    the court calculated that
    Beaumont's asserted "contributions" to the value of the property
    probably did not exceed the value to
    him of living on that property over the years with Meadows, especially
    noting that Beaumont's farming
    operations on the spread were never profitable. Rejecting Beaumont's
    alternative claim for
    compensation under an implied business partnership theory, the court
    found that since the farm ran at a
    loss, there was no basis to calculate any compensation.

    After noting that the ACLU's constitutional issues were not preserved by
    being present at trial, Buettner
    also noted that Beaumont's sexual orientation was not "the subject of
    evidence at trial, nor the basis for
    his claims," thus presumably undermining claims of deprivation of equal
    protection or due process in the
    eyes of the court, even were such claims admissible at the appellate
    stage. In a footnote, the court also
    refused to consider the theory of meretricious relationship, which has
    traction in some other states, since
    it was not raised at the trial level.

    It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would grant certiorari in this
    case, despite the manifest
    injustice, when the only constitutional claims were apparently not
    asserted at the trial level, but hope
    springs eternal. A.S.L.

    Posted by: Scotty | Jan 24, 2006 1:18:38 PM

  24. You poop hole butt fucking bastards!!!! You all make me sick, you are a danger to society, anti family, pro abortion, anti God, Bible and anything that is decent and good you all hate. You people are ate up with LUST!! I think AIDS is a form of judgement!!!

    Posted by: Guess | Jan 24, 2006 8:52:21 PM

  25. You're hot.

    Posted by: Chad Hanging | Jan 24, 2006 9:13:55 PM

  26. 1 2 »

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