An elderly gay man from California has won a $600,000 (£388,144) settlement after claiming he was barred from seeing his dying partner in hospital.

Clay Greene, 78, of Guerneville, claimed that Sonoma County’s Public Guardian programme discriminated against him because he is gay.

He and partner Harold Scull, 88, were not married or civil partners but had been together for 20 years. They had medical declarations, powers of attorney, and signed wills which named them as spouses.

Mr Greene also claimed that social workers forced him into a nursing home and sold the couple’s private property.

Representing the county, attorney Greg Spaulding denied Mr Greene had been discriminated against but accepted the county had made mistakes in selling his property.

According to Associated Press, Mr Spaulding said Mr Greene had been barred from seeing his partner because Mr Scull had told authorities that Mr Greene had beaten and threatened to kill him. However, no formal complaint was lodged.

The attorney added that the law states the county may sell possessions up to $5,000 to cover medical costs but an auction of the couple’s property raised more than $25,000. He said the error had led to revised policies.

Mr Spaulding said the county settled the case to avoid paying out any more money on it.

Amy Todd-Gher of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Mr Greene, said: “What Clay and Harold lost can never be replaced, but this settlement brings a measure of justice to their story.

“Even as we celebrate this victory, however, we are deeply troubled that the County of Sonoma continues to refuse to take responsibility for their egregious misconduct and violations of the law in this case.

“We urge every citizen of Sonoma County to demand more oversight of the Public Guardian’s office. They need to be watched.”

Plaintiff Jannette Biggerstaff , the executor of Mr Scull’s estate and a longtime friend of the couple, added: “There is no possible justification for what happened to my friends Harold and Clay, and I still feel outraged and heartbroken that they suffered such a terrible tragedy, which was made worse by the county spreading such terrible lies about Clay.

“But I am pleased that their rights have been vindicated, and I’m hopeful that their story will help to prevent this from happening to other vulnerable people.”