The Court Cases That Changed Our World

Many of the greatest strides in the fight for LGBT social justice and sexual liberation were the result of court cases, often involving accidental activists simply fighting for the right to live their lives like everybody else.



Scott Thorson
Thorson v. Liberace

He was only 16 when he met Wladziu Valentino Liberace, but Scott Thorson soon became the famously flamboyant musician’s (paid) romantic companion. Liberace reportedly showered Thorson with gifts, and the younger man had extensive plastic surgery (chin implant, raising of his cheekbones, and rhinoplasty) to look more like Liberace — at the latter’s request. When the two broke up in 1982, Thorson filed a $113 million palimony suit against the singer, alleging that Liberace hadn’t lived up to his promises to take care of him; allegedly Liberace had promised to adopt Thorson so he’d be the musician’s legal heir. Four years later the two men settled on a paltry $95,000 payment, and Thorson got to keep the two family dogs and two cars.

The two men reunited shortly before Liberace’s 1987 death from AIDS complications, and Thorson later wrote a book about their relationship, which is being made into a Steven Soderbergh movie starring Matt Damon as Thorson and Michael Douglas as Liberace. He also told reporters that their relationship ended because of his drug use and Liberace’s philandering.

Thorson was a magnet for trouble and continued to make headlines. In 1990 he testified against mobster Eddie Nash (accused of masterminding the infamous 1981 Wonderland murders in Los Angeles) and was placed in witness protection. He was shot five times the day after he left the program. In 2008 he went to prison on drug and burglary charges. After getting out of the slammer earlier this year, Thorson, who reportedly has lived with a woman for over a decade now, told reporters that he slept with Michael Jackson as well but refused to leave Liberace for him. Most media observers dismissed the story as more fantasy than reality.