Anne Stott

100 Women We Love

photo by Sophia Hantzes
Sharon Kowalski and karen Thompson
Karen Thompson gained national recognition after her partner Sharon Kowalski sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Kowalski’s father assumed legal guardianship of his daughter, ignoring Thompson’s and Kowalski’s relationship--and launching Thompson’s nearly decade-long battle for guardianship and Kowalski’s right to come home. She spoke at rallies and events nationwide to tell the couple’s story and raise awareness about the need for legal protection for same-sex relationships. In 1991, a Minnesota court finally ruled in Thompson’s favor, allowing Kowalski to return home in 1993. Since that time, Thompson has continued to advocate for LGBT and disability rights, and has received numerous awards for her pioneering activism. “We need to protect our relationships in every way possible because nightmares like Sharon’s and mine don’t need to happen,“ Thompson reminds us. “While marriage for same-sex couples can help legitimize our relationships, it is not enough. Begin the conversation about advance directives with your partners, families, and loved ones. Don’t leave yourselves vulnerable like Sharon and I did. Take control. Protect yourselves, protect each other, and protect your families.” Having recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their landmark case, Thompson says Kowalski attends an adult day program five days a week and has begun to speak without the help of a speech synthesizer.
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