July 7, 2004|By Christopher Sherman, Sentinel Staff Writer
LAKELAND — Tom “Scotty” Buchanan’s buzz rings off the angle with calls accompanying to the assorted AIDS-awareness and gay-advocacy groups he works with. He’s a walking agenda of abutment casework in Polk Canton for those abandoned because of affliction or animal orientation. He’s additionally 72 and a appreciative grandfather.
Polk Canton has one of the accomplished concentrations of same- chief couples in the country, according to a address by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a gay-rights alignment based in Washington, D.C. But clashing Buchanan, who absent his accomplice nine years ago to AIDS, best adopt to accumulate their animal acclimatization to themselves.
Although it’s growing rapidly, Polk Canton is still abundantly a rural canton area aboveboard gay bodies of Buchanan’s bearing are a rarity. Buchanan said gays his age in Polk accept spent years aggregate into beeline association and sometimes back they see him advancing in a accessible abode they run the added way so as not to be associated with him.
“Polk Canton is so far abaft in the action for gay rights,” Buchanan said, which is why abounding are afraid to apprehend Polk ranks seventh nationally abaft gay havens such as San Francisco, Manhattan and Broward County.
Buchanan knows article about that fight. In June 1969 he served as a pallbearer at Judy Garland’s burial in New York City, and after he and others went to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village to “drown our sorrows.” Garland was an figure for gays, said Buchanan, who ran a bar that was a admired of Broadway stars. A battle with badge alfresco the Stonewall that day led to canicule of agitation now accustomed as the bearing of the gay-rights movement.
But the attempt for gay rights is not a action best bodies adequate their retirement are accommodating to booty up.
The Rev. Karen Ducham of the Rainbow Promise Metropolitan Association Church, which serves abounding in Polk’s gay community, said she sees her aggregation cool with the clearing of arctic snowbirds in the winter, but knows gay seniors are a difficult demographic to rally.
“They’re out there, but they appear from addition generation,” said Ducham, 55. “It’s adamantine to get them into a accumulation of any kind.”
Ducham recalled a chief who came to her abbey already and begin it to be affable but said she and her accomplice were so accustomed in beeline association that they didn’t feel adequate with the aboveboard gay congregation.
When told Polk ranks awful for its absorption of same- chief couples, those accustomed with Polk’s gay association are hard-pressed to anticipate of any acumen the canton decidedly appeals to gay seniors.
Mike Hamic, of Exit Realty of Lakeland, was afraid to apprehend Polk fabricated the account and questioned whether the same- couples were necessarily gay.
“You will see absolutely a few bodies of the aforementioned who alive calm aloof to accomplish it affordable,” Hamic said. In places such as Fort Lauderdale, absolute retirement communities are actuality congenital for gays and affairs fast, he said, but not in Polk.
The abstracts acclimated for the address came from the 2000 U.S. census, but there is no box to analysis animal orientation, so analysts alive on the address looked for cases area the actuality bushing out the demography anatomy articular an developed of the aforementioned as the “husband/wife” or “unmarried partner.”
More than likely, gay seniors end up in Polk for the aforementioned affidavit as added bodies — affordable living, balmy acclimate and the area amid Orlando and Tampa.
“It depends on your age,” said Robbie Groskopf, 48, of Lakeland. “When you get to our age we’re not out active the clubs.” He said he doesn’t see gays earlier than 65 except on break at the abbey or at banquet in a home. “It’s a added affectionate socialization.”
Groskopf’s partner, 51-year-old Richard Thomas of Lakeland, said, “They’re bodies you don’t see out anywhere else. As you get earlier you achieve down.”
Gay-rights advocates are aggravating to draw absorption to the numbers of gay seniors to highlight the acknowledged disadvantage they face best acutely after in activity because their relationships abridgement the acknowledged cachet of marriage.
Even if a gay brace has been in a accord for 40 years, back one actuality dies, the survivor does not accept admission to Social Security survivor benefits. If a accomplice leaves a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account, the survivor is heavily taxed. Affiliated survivors can accede these tax-free. Also, the actual accomplice in a gay accord faces the acreage tax if inheriting a home, alike it was accordingly endemic — article affiliated spouses are absolved from.
“Since the [gay] alliance affair has surfaced, we’re audition from a lot added chief couples,” said Lisa Bennett, administrator of the Foundation’s FamilyNet Project. “They apperceive how important it becomes at the end of life.”
Buchanan could accept absent his home if not for planning afore his partner, Roy Garard, died. Though Buchanan was the one who cared for Garard during his affliction and Garard’s accouchement did not appear the funeral, their advocate beatific a letter to Buchanan allurement for the accomplishment to the home he and Garard aggregate to achieve the estate. Fortunately, the accomplishment was alone in Buchanan’s name.
The accent of these issues is not absent on Buchanan. He has adherent his activity to abounding of them, but he wants added support.
“I don’t apprehend them to advance bottomward the street,” aloof get involved, he said.”I’m accomplished — my canicule of actuality a trailblazer are over,” Buchanan said.
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