Gay couple celebrates 60 years together
By CHRIS SMITH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A popular couple at one of Santa Rosa’s larger retirement complexes is celebrating 60 years together, though neither partner can come up with the
precise date of their anniversary.
It’s not a memory problem.
Bill Scogland and Doug Heen did not marry in 1951. Such a union was unthinkable then and still is against the law in most of the country, including California, though New York began sanctioning same-sex marriage on Sunday.
Having met in 1950 at a party in Sausalito, the two World War II veterans merged their lives by quietly moving in together.
“You don’t keep track of the day you became roommates,” said Scogland, at 83 the more talkative of the two. For decades as a homosexual couple, he and Heen, now 91, didn’t dare celebrate their anniversary in public, even subtly.
“You’d go to jail,” Scogland said.
As they navigated life together, the partners did most of the things that legally wedded people do. They worked — Heen was a draftsman for Southern Pacific Railroad and Scogland put in 27 years in the life insurance business.
“I was always considered the most eligible bachelor at Metropolitan Life,” Scogland recalled with a smile.
He and Heen purchased homes and paid taxes. They lived in Marin County, then San Francisco, then Berkeley, and more than 30 years ago made a full-time home and milk-and-eggs farm of their former vacation cabin in Cazadero.
“We raised goats and chickens and ducks and geese,” Scogland remembered. “And peacocks!” said Heen.
As they’re grown old, they’ve collected art and worked their gardens. Four years ago, they decided that the time had come to sell their home in the St. Rose District of Santa Rosa and move into an apartment at the Lodge at Paulin Creek senior residence.
For decades, the pair didn’t talk about being a couple, instead allowing neighbors and co-workers to think what they would.
“We just sort of blended in. We were just two guys down the block,” Scogland said.
Even with the dawning decades ago of the gay-rights movement, he and Heen for the most part stayed to themselves. “We don’t march or anything,” he said.
Still, they have never understood why marriage by people who happen to be of the same sex is such a hot-button issue politically, especially in generally liberal California, whose voters banned it by passing Proposition 8 by a narrow margin in 2008.
“It’s horrible that it’s a big thing,” Scogland said. “What’s the big deal about it?”
“I think it’s unconstitutional to treat them (gays and lesbians) different,” he said. “What’s good for one should be good for the other.”
Despite his dismay that only six states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage, and that President Obama won’t take a strong stand on the issue, Scogland is grateful for the progress he and Heen have witnessed in recent years.
National polls conducted last spring found that a narrow majority of Americans — 53 percent, according to a Gallup poll — now support making same-sex marriage legal. And Scogland and Heen appreciate that they no longer risk arrest or other trouble should they acknowledge that for all these 60 years, really, they’ve been more than roommates.
“We’re satisfied, very happy,” Scogland said.
Though he and his partner of six decades do expect to live to see the right to marry extended to all Americans, they have no interest in being wed themselves. They’ve known for all this time that they’re as much a couple as any and they figure that as registered domestic partners they already have the same legal protections as married people.
Still, Heen and Scogland feel strongly that it is un-American to deny those gay people who wish to marry, though, as usual, they’re not making a lot of noise about it. “We just want to be good neighbors,” Scogland said.