A Kalispell native's heart-wrenching video about the devastating death of his life partner and the ensuing actions by his partner's family to exclude him from the funeral has gone viral over the past week.
Shane Crone had been in a loving, committed relationship with his partner, Tom Bridegroom, for six years. But while Shane's Montana family embraced Tom and welcomed him into the fold, Tom's family refused to accept that Tom was gay or to acknowledge Shane.
When Tom died after falling from a rooftop, his family took his body back to Indiana and warned Shane not to attend the funeral or he would be assaulted. They took Tom's possessions from the home that he and Shane shared and did everything they could to erase all mentions of Shane from Tom's life. The hospital where Tom was taken following the accident refused to release any information to Shane. The two young men had no wills.
"I can't just stand back any more," Shane says in the video, "It Could Happen to You". "Maybe that's why this all happened ... I just don't know if people will listen ... I guess no one will listen if I don't talk ... so I'm talking."
Unfortunately, it did happen to Mary Leslie.
Mary, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU of Montana's domestic partnership case faced an almost identical series of emotional and financial assaults from her former partner's family.
To this day, the experience haunts Mary Leslie (pictured here on the right with her current partner, Stacey Haugland). She talks about it in this video, shot shortly after the ACLU filed its lawsuit in 2010.
Mary, too, was young and without a will when her partner of eight years, was killed in a workplace accident at Big Sky. Like Shane, Mary wasn't allowed to take her partner's body or to plan the funeral. Like Shane, Mary suffered the emotional pain of having her partner's family enter the home she and her partner shared to rummage through and take personal belongings. Mary had no legal right to them.
We can't sit by and let other people go through what Shane and Mary have endured. Please join us in our efforts for domestic partnerships in Montana. Visit www.fairisfairmontana.org to learn how you can help.