Thanks, Bryan and Bill

AT&T

I was hesitant to share this, lest I be accused of navel-gazing, but above is a photo of a plaque and card I received this week from gay AT&T employee Bryan Dickenson of Garland, thanking me for reporting on his struggle to get FMLA leave from the company so he could care for his ailing partner of 30 years, Bill Sugg. Bryan is at home with Bill now, having been granted discretionary leave. Dallas-based AT&T enacted a new policy granting FMLA-equivalent leave to same-sex partners, regardless of whether their relationship is recognized by the state in which they live. However, because Dickenson is a member of union, he must wait for the new policy to be approved by his labor representatives. In the meantime, he’s been granted discretionary leave so he can care for Sugg, who’s undergoing physical therapy and remains on a feeding tube, but is gradually improving.

Of course, the real credit for this victory goes to Rob Wiley, Dickenson’s attorney, who had the foresight to contact us when his other efforts failed; to the countless advocates across the country who spoke up in response to my original story; to Dickenson and Sugg, who sacrificed their privacy to fight for equal benefits; and, yes, even to AT&T for responding swiftly and favorably.

Still, I felt compelled to post this here and say that in 10 years as a working journalist, I’ve never received anything quite like it from a source. And I can tell you that it means much more than any award from a press association. In a profession where you so frequently become the target of anger and blame (including for this story), it’s nice to know when you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives.

Thanks, Bryan and Bill.

—  John Wright

AT&T posts $3 billion in profit, but can't grant 12 weeks of UNPAID leave to gay employees

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg
Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg

As you may already have heard if you have a Facebook account, gay Dallas attorney Rob Wiley is organizing a rally outside the AT&T store on Oak Lawn Avenue on Saturday to draw attention to the plight of his clients, Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg. Dickenson, who’s worked for AT&T for the last 12 years, is being denied the same benefits that would be granted to a married heterosexual employee under the Family Medical Leave Act. This is despite AT&T’s 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. It’s also despite the fact that the company added 2.7 million wireless customers and posted a profit of $3.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009. Wiley has enlisted the help of Equality March Texas, the direct action group that put together this week’s Holocaust memorial. The rally will be from noon to 2 p.m., at 3311 Oak Lawn Ave. in Dallas. From the Facebook event page:

This is a peaceful gathering. You may bring signs, but we ask that the signs be positive (like “our families count too”) as opposed to negative signs (like “AT&T go to hell”). This is a call for change, and we believe positive signs are more likely to get Bryan his leave than negative signs.

—  John Wright