Estate of Denial: One obituary described Ellyn Farley as a happy, studious, pet-loving attorney married to her spouse Jennifer Tobits and only “reluctantly” wearing dresses to attend Mass. The other described her as a fierce litigator and champion to the underdog, survived by her parents, her brother, various aunts and uncles, a godmother, and “good friends for life who will be in her heart forever, Jennifer and Nancy, of Chicago; and numerous cousins and other devoted friends.”
The first was published in the Chicago Tribune, the city where Farley lived with her spouse Jennifer Tobits. The latter was published in the Roanoke Times, in Virginia, where Farley grew up.
The first was drafted by one of the lesbian couple’s friends and was reviewed and edited by Tobits. The latter was coordinated by Farley’s parents who, according to Tobits, did not consult her about its contents.
The first makes clear that Farley was married to a woman; the latter scrubs that reality out of her life story.
“This is the new era,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We are all familiar with hearing stories about parents stepping in and not honoring their children’s relationships and trying to take all the assets. Now that so many couples are in marriages or civil unions or domestic partnerships, it’s still happening; but we have a degree … of legal protections that we didn’t have before.”