Are AIDS Survivors Victims Too?

Collin Smith and Bud Jones (not their real names) couldn’t believe it was happening to them. As Collin drove Bud, his lover of two years, to the hospital, the nagging fear of AIDS that lingers over the gay community crept into his mind and became a reality.

Collin, thirty, and Bud, thirty-one, never planned for what was to follow that trip to the hospital. Without a will or power of attorney, Collin became a “non-person” in the eyes of Bud’s family and the law. When Bud died thirteen days after his hospital admission, Collin was shunned. When he requested to see Bud, he was told the “body had already been sent to cold storage.” When he called the funeral home the next day asking to see Bud, he was told that would be impossible. Collin, who had planned to take Bud home, didn’t attend the out-of-state funeral. His bereavement benefits at work only applied to immediate family, and Collin says Bud’s father was silent when he asked if he could attend the funeral. “I just wasn’t welcome,” Collin says.

“The family, defined by blood, really owns the body,” says Rosemary Redmond, an attorney who has prepared numerous wills for gay couples. “There’s nothing that protects unrelated persons. Legally, they have no standing. They may increase their rights by drawing up a will”

Collin conducted a memorial service at his house at the same time that Bud’s funeral was being held. For many friends and lovers of AIDS victims who have been excluded by the victims’ families, separate memorial services are the only way of saying goodbye. The Rev. Steven Pace, interim pastoral coordinator at Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas, says he has performed fifty such memorial services this year; last year he performed twenty-five. He estimates that 500 such AIDS memorials have been held in the city.

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