On November 18th, Manhattan Surrogate Nora S. Anderson extended an injunction preventing the sale of 69 Horatio Street, the home of Tom Doyle and Bill Cornwell for 55 years.
Doyle and Cornwell never formally married, and after Cornwell’s death in 2014, his will—which gave the house to Doyle—was found deficient because it only had one witness (the law requires two). Cornwell’s four nieces and nephews then swooped in and signed a contract to sell the building for $7 million.
After being told by many estate lawyers that he had no rights, I urged Tom to fight. The plan: Establish that Doyle and Cornwell had a common law marriage under Pennsylvania law. The two frequently vacationed there and held themselves out as “married,” which must be recognized in New York.
Lawyers for the nieces and nephews entered a crass and homophobic opposition, stating that gay marriage can’t be recognized retroactively since the Supreme Court declared laws against same-sex marriage unconstitutional only in 2015. They also argued that the two were just “friends.”
Doyle’s response in court: “Then why did you call me ‘Uncle Tom?’ ”
The injunction will continue until the Surrogate calls the parties together for a conference.
—Arthur Z. Schwartz