Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben finally gets a court-appointed attorney

Joey Dauben

Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.

Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.

In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.

Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.

—  admin

Ray Hill kicks off campaign for Texas House with YouTube videos

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

As previously reported by Houstini Ray Hill, the iconic and iconoclastic Houston LGBT activist, announced this year that he would challenge ten-term incumbent state representative Garnet Coleman in next spring’s Democratic Primary. Hill is running what he calls an “unfunded campaign,” relying on social media and support from community members to get his message out.

We haven’t heard much about the campaign since Hill filed at the beginning of the month (perhaps he’s been distracted by his recent arrest during an attempt to prevent the HPD vice squad from harassing strippers), but Hill seems to have gotten back into the campaign saddle, releasing two YouTube videos about his campaign and why he thinks he’s the best choice to represent district 147 (they can be viewed after the jump). The audio’s not the best (tip: taping next to a roaring waterfall does not produce the best sound), but in both videos Hill expresses his belief that the common people of the district will vote him into office. Judge for yourself:

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How Not To Bribe Your Way Out Of An Arrest After Exposing Yourself At a Glory Hole

Richard Laiko, an 80-year-old man, was arrested this week for inserting his penis into a glory hole at a National Park Service restroom near Pensacola, Florida. It just so happened a park ranger was on the other side of the hole, and when the ranger arrested him, Laiko allegedly offered him free landscaping services if he would let him go. So let's add a bribery charge to Mr. Laiko's list of problems.


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Queerty

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BREAKING: 3 generations of advocates, vets fighting for repeal of DADT facing arrest at WH

They’ve done it again – including baristas Autumn Sandeen and Scott Wooledge, as well as Blender Michael Bedwell. NOTE: Talk About Equality has coverage and photos. One WH shot:


Washington, DC – This afternoon, three generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans and advocates went back to the White House fence to call for the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama to make good on their promises to secure the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the abbreviated, lame-duck session of Congress that started today.

During the direct action organized by GetEQUAL – a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – and local activists, 13 veterans and advocates handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in an act of non-violent, civil disobedience protesting the un-American, discriminatory law yet to be repealed by Congress — regardless of the numerous promises by President Obama, Congressional leaders and national LGBT leaders that they would do so by the end of this year.

Photos and video of the three generations of veterans and repeal advocates taking part in an act of civil disobedience today at the White House will soon be available online at www.getequal.org. Also, you can visit GetEQUAL’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/getequal) to stay up-to-date regarding the well-being and release of the 13 veterans and advocates arrested today.

The 13 veterans and repeal advocates arrested today include:

  • Five veterans (Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, and Cadet Mara Boyd) who were arrested back in March during the GetEQUAL organized “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act of civil disobedience at the White House fence demanding President Obama show leadership on repeal.
  • Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL, and Dan Fotou, action strategist for GetEQUAL.
  • Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was discharged in 1976 for declaring and admitting she was a lesbian. She became the first-ever LGBT servicemember reinstated to her position in the U.S. Military, by a U.S. Federal District Court. On July 30th, 1993, Miriam and 26 other protesters were arrested at the White House fence for protesting then-President Bill Clinton’s broken promise to repeal the gay ban – instead signing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill into law.
  • Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Elzie was also the first soldier to be discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to fight his discharge and win – resulting in his service as a Marine for four years as an openly gay man.
  • Former U.S. Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, who was discharged from the Army in December 2004 after announcing to his superiors that he was gay. Finkenbinder is an Iraq war veteran and was about to return for a second tour of duty when he was discharged.
  • U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal Advocate Rob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
  • Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest who spoke out against the church’s official stance in support of California’s Proposition 8, removing the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Because of his courageous stance against Prop 8, Father Geoff Farrow was removed as pastor of St. Paul’s by his bishop and suspended as a priest.
  • Scott Wooledge, a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written extensively on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam’s House Blend.
  • Michael Bedwell, long-time LGBT civil rights advocate, close friend of Leonard Matlovich, and administrator of the site www.leonardmatlovich.com.

“On the White House fence today, and in a jail cell this evening, are thirteen American patriots,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “Included in the thirteen arrested are veterans and advocates spanning three generations of brave and courageous Americans, who sacrificed their careers and lives to see the day this discriminatory ban on openly gay and lesbian service in the military finally goes into the history books. Today, we have sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Senate and President Obama that we expect them to make good on their promises to end this inhumane law this year, during the lame-duck session of Congress.”

“Today, I stand again at the White House fence – 17 years later – still protesting the injustice and hypocrisy of a failed law,” said former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom. “And with us today is not only the spirit of Lieutenant Enslin, the first to be discharged from the U.S. Military for being gay, but also standing here in spirit are every young woman and man awaiting discharge under the shameful ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.  They are here and we are here, all together still America’s daughters and sons, still willing to serve and protect this country. I sincerely pray our country’s elected leaders in Congress and the White House will have the courage to repeal this law and make this the last time I have to come back to this fence and be arrested in protest of a law in direct contrast with our values and beliefs as Americans.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Police Raid Gay Dallas Bathhouse, Arrest 11

For the first time since 2003, police entered Club-Dallas, a gay bathhouse in the Deep Ellum district of East Dallas, and arrested 11 people, the Dallas Voice reports:

Dallas "Ten patrons of The Club reportedly were charged with either public lewdness or indecent exposure, while one employee was charged with interfering with police. DPD would only release records related to three of the 11 arrests, saying Dallas Voice needed to file a freedom of information request to obtain additional details. Laura Martin, DPD’s liaison officer to the gay community, said the vice unit raided the establishment on Swiss Avenue in response to a complaint. But police wouldn’t say who had complained…The Club Dallas on Thursday, Oct. 14 issued a one-sentence statement about the raid. 'The Club Dallas management is committed to pursuing justice for and defending the rights of each of its members,' the statement read. The Club reportedly helped bond out arrested members from jail and has offered them legal representation. Martin, meanwhile, warned that additional police activity at the business is possible."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Gay Malawi man goes missing after he and his husband are pardoned, released by president

Monjeza-Chimbalanga-001
Steven Monjeza, left, and Tiwonge “Aunt Tiwo” Chimbalanga, after their arrest

After a tremendous outcry from LGBT and human rights activists around the world, a gay Malawi couple arrested after their wedding have been pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika. But within hours of being released, one of the men has gone missing, according to news reports.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, known as “Aunt Tiwo,” and his partner Steven Monjeza had been sentenced to 14 years of hard labor until the Malawi president stepped in and had them released on Saturday night, May 29. According to the website Zambian Watchdog, Malawi Prison Chief Macdonald Chaona said Chimbalanga was taken to his home village in Thyolo on Saturday night after being released but has not been heard from since.

His uncle, headman of the village, told reporters Chimbalanga had arrived at the village around 9 p.m., but had not been heard from since that time. His brother-in-law told reporters he had not seen Chimbalanga since his release, but that he knew the man had wanted to leave Malawi.

The lawyer who represented the couple said he had not seen either man since their release, and Monjeza also said he had not seen his partner.

Some sources said there had been concerns that the men could be in danger from those who opposed their relationships. Even in announcing the pardon, President Mutharika warned that homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, and the country’s Minister of Gender, Women and Children had warned that Chimbalanga and Monjeza could be re-arrested if they tried to continue their relationship after their release.

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Kirven arrested in D.C. protest

Chaz Kirven, right, was among the eight protesters who staged a sit-in Thursday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's D.C. office, calling for passage of ENDA. Four, including Kirven, were arrested.
Chaz Kirven, right, was among the eight protesters who staged a sit-in Thursday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s D.C. office, calling for passage of ENDA. Four, including Kirven, were arrested. (Photo e-mailed to Dallas Voice by Chaz Kirven)

Dallas activist C.D. (Chaz) Kirven was among the four activists arrested Thursday in Washington, D.C., when they staged a sit-in in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in employment against LGBT people.

The action in D.C. was part of a bi-coastal protest: Eight people participated in the sit-in at Pelosi’s D.C. office, and 11 more staged a sit-in in Pelosi’s offices in her home district in San Francisco. A total of ten people were arrested between the two protests.

Chaz sent me e-mails early this morning, after she was released from jail. She said her court date is set for April 6, and she and the other protesters need our support. She was also rallying support for Lt. Dan Choi, who had been discharged under the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Choi was arrested yesterday after chaining himself to the fence around the White House as part of a protest calling for the repeal of DADT.

We’re trying to get in touch with Chaz now and will have a more complete story online as soon as we can. But for now, read Kerry Eleveld’s report at Advocate.com.

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Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright