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San Diego man bequeaths millions to Lambda Legal

SAN DIEGO – A San Diego man’s bequest is helping to fund the Eden/Rushing Chair of Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT Americans and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

The honorary title will be bestowed upon the legal director position with Lambda Legal, so the first recipient is Jon W. Davidson, the current legal director.

Robert “Bob” Rushing of San Diego died in 2012. He was the longtime partner of John Eden, who died in 2005 after heart surgery. The couple were among Lambda Legal’s first members of the Guardian Society, a group of individuals who have included Lambda Legal in their legacy giving.

"I am incredibly proud to carry this new title in honor of a couple who understood - first-hand - how critical our work is, and who supported our efforts over many years," said Davidson, who just marked his ninth year as legal director and celebrated 18 years with the organization in 2013. "Our work is made possible through the support of individual donors and we deeply appreciate that John and Bob entrusted their legacy for equality to us."

The bequest by Rushing and Eden totals nearly $3 million, Lambda Legal said.

Rushing and Eden were together for 45 years, and friends describe Bob and John as devoted to each other. They were avid art collectors. John was a tennis player and Bob was a swimmer. They had a large circle of friends and enjoyed entertaining.

Bob developed multiple sclerosis in his 40s. When Bob and John made their estate plan, they did so with Bob's illness in mind. However, in 2005, John died unexpectedly during what was thought to be routine heart surgery. At that time, New York did not recognize marriage equality, and John's untimely death threatened to cause huge tax liabilities for Bob, who was slowly becoming disabled from his illness.

Bob became keenly aware of the need for same-sex couples to plan wisely: He had lost not only his adoring partner, but also his primary caretaker, and for a time he feared he would also lose his home. Luckily, Bob's attorney was able to prevent some of the negative tax consequences.

The New York winters would eventually be too hard on Bob's health, so he settled in San Diego. After Bob died in 2012, John's cousin called Bob's executor, wanting to know whether John's wishes were being carried out. The executor told him that most of Bob's estate, part of which Bob had inherited from John, was going to Lambda Legal. John's cousin said, "That's all I need to know. That's what John wanted."

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To discuss other naming opportunities and/or learn more about the Guardian Society, contact Thai Pham, Director of Legacy Giving, tpham@lambdalegal.org or 212-809-8585 x 214.