Marriage equality activist Ed Watson dies
 

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posted Friday, December 16, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 50

Marriage equality activist Ed Watson dies
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ed Watson died December 7 without achieving his goal.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier this year, he hoped to marry his partner of 40 years, Derence Kernek, while he could still recognize him.

Sadly, he failed. Kernek announced Watson's death at age 78 from complications of Alzheimer's, diabetes, and hypertension.

'Just wanted to let you know that Ed passed at 22:15 this evening,' Kernek, 80, said in an email to friends and supporters from the couple's home in Palm Springs.

Watson died on the eve of another court hearing on Prop 8, the initiative that overturned California's same-sex marriage law and kept the couple from marrying.

The couple became the face of California's fight for marriage equality when they videotaped a plea to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in March, asking that the court allow Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling striking down Prop 8 to take effect so they could marry before Watson's Alzheimer's became too advanced for him to remember his relationship with Kernek.

The couple's inability to marry deprived also Watson of coverage under Kernek's out-of-state retirement plan, imposing financial hardship on the couple.

'It's ironic that he died on the eve of appeals about peripheral issues around a case that should have been settled more than a year ago,' said Richard Jacobs, chairman and founder of the LGBT advocacy group Courage Campaign.

'None of this will matter to Ed or Derence.'

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on August 4, 2010, that Proposition 8 violated the due process and equal protection rights of Gay and Lesbian couples guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Sponsors of Prop 8 then appealed Walker's ruling and won a suspension of it pending the 9th Circuit's ruling.

Prop 8 supporters also filed suit claiming that Walker, who was in a same-sex relationship when he presided over the January 2010 trial, had a personal interest in the outcome and therefore should have recused himself.

That argument was rejected by a different federal judge, and his ruling was, in turn, appealed by Prop 8 supporters. It was that appeal that was before the 9th Circuit on December 8, the day after Watson died.

The L.A. Times reported that Kernek's phone was disconnected when Courage Campaign activists tried to reach him. Apart from the email announcing Watson's death, there has been no further communication from him.



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