Houston Chronicle pulls endorsement of school board member Rodriguez over anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

The Houston Chronicle has rescinded its endorsement of Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez over an anti-gay flier distributed by the Rodriquez campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier attacked Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flier also suggested that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

In the online opinion piece removing their endorsement, the Chronicle editorial board called out the overt homophobia in the Rodriquez flier.

“With his hateful flier, Rodriguez perpetuates the kind of stereotypes that put our kids in danger. And he implies that all right-thinking people agree with him – an insult to his constituents, and precisely the kind of blithe, old-school homophobia that makes school hallways so treacherous.

Members of the school board are supposed to be role models, not bullies. They’re supposed to support civil rights, not fight against them. They’re supposed to fight hate speech, not commit it.”

In response to the Rodriquez flyer the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had encouraged people to contact the editorial board and ask that the Chronicle endorsement be rescinded. “Certainly we’re very pleased that the Chronicle has taken this step,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “They recognize that there is no place for this kind of homophobia on the school board.” Freeman added the next step for the Caucus will be to continue to work to elect Fonseca. “We’re looking for volunteers who can help us by handing out literature at the polls.”

Until this recent controversy very little attention had been paid to the District III HISD race outside of political circles. No scientific polling on the race has been made public, but it’s considered to be a dead heat, with neither candidate having a clear advantage. It remains to be seen how the Rodriquez flier, and the overwhelmingly negative response it has garnered, will affect the outcome of the race.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

HRC Denounces NC Rep’s Hateful Rhetoric

In an interview yesterday with the Winston-Salem Journal, North Carolina State Representative Larry Brown said that the government should not spend money to treat adults with HIV or AIDS who “caused it by the way they live.” According to the newspaper, he went on to say he thinks the government shouldn’t spend money to treat HIV among people “living in perverted lifestyles.” Brown’s extremist remarks and prior anti-gay statements show that he is not fit to serve in elective office. The Human Rights Campaign is demanding that Rep. Brown apologize for his hateful statements.

“Rep. Brown’s ill-informed comments are not only hateful rhetoric, but they are also extremely dangerous,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said today. “Hysterical, judgmental and inaccurate statements like Brown’s create an environment that prevents many from getting tested and seeking treatment, thereby furthering the spread of HIV and AIDS. Larry Brown’s conduct reflects poorly on his constituents and other elected officials. The people of North Carolina deserve better.”

This isn’t the first time that Brown has made anti-gay remarks. Last October, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, Brown sent a derogatory email to House Majority Leader Paul Stam regarding the presentation of a legislative leadership award given to then-Speaker Joe Hackney by Equality North Carolina. He wrote, “I hope all the queers are thrilled to see him. I am sure there will be a couple legislative fruitloops there in the audience.”

“Larry Brown’s views are out of line with the fair-minded people of North Carolina,” Solmonese added. “Sadly, he won a fourth term in November unopposed. Expressions of such bigotry and ignorance have no place in the North Carolina Legislature.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Watch: FRC’s Tony Perkins Makes Laughable Claim That His Group is Neither Hateful Nor Anti-Gay

Frc

FOX & Friends offers a sympathetic ear to the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, who wants the Southern Poverty Law Center to retract their designation of FRC as a hate group.

In fact, the reasons for the SPLC's designation are well-documented

Jeremy Hooper at Good as You also uncovered a document, as yet unreleased, which shows that FRC is developing a campaign with some of the other anti-gay groups which the SPLC labeled as hate groups, to try to spin the lie that they are the victims.

Watch Perkins spew lies on FOX & Friends, and read the document, AFTER THE JUMP


Here's the document:

StartDebatingStopHating.com: FRC's ridiculous attempt to spin the SPLC list


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Gay groups are cold-hearted, hateful, and cruel, says man who blames gays for six million dead Jews

So many social conservatives simply love, love, love the fact that a crude and cruel disease hit the gay population in this country (as opposed to other countries) earliest and hardest. None more so than the American Family Association’s in-house liability, Bryan Fischer:

Let’s not forget that American tobacco manufacturers were forced to cough up over 0 billion because they peddle a product that kills people.

Well, homosexual activist groups likewise are pushing a lifestyle that kills. If anybody should be obligated to pony up funds to mitigate a health crisis, it ought to be the organizations that are responsible for advocating the very behavior that created and perpetuates the epidemic.

Surely we will be accused of lacking compassion. But this is hardly the case. If you care about an individual, and you see that he is involved in a self-destructive pattern of behavior, the most loving thing you can to is appeal to him to start making better lifestyle choices. It is hardly compassionate to urge him to continue to engage in conduct that everybody in the world knows has a good chance of killing him in the end. That, in fact, is a form of cruelty.

You want to know who the true hate groups in America are, the ones who are sending the most hateful message to gays, there they are. Pro-family groups are trying to save the same people that the gay lobby is consigning to an early death.

The organizations that are showing the most obnoxious form of cold-heartedness are the homosexual activist groups that celebrate lethal behavior. That’s the worst possible message someone can send to his friends: I don’t love you enough to tell you the truth in order to save your life. Where is an ounce of compassion in that?

Uh huh. Right. It’s the groups that push for more recognition of two-partner commitments, distribute safe sex education, direct heightened focus to the most vulnerable populations, and work to remove the sort of shaming that leads young people to see their lives as disposable (and their choices therefore irrelevant) who are fostering danger here in America. You know, the same groups that demanded research and treatment back when stone-casters turned blind eyes: *THEY* are the bad guys in this epidemic. Because everyone knows that when it comes to the Pandora’s Box of diseases that plague the known biological world for reasons unknown, the best prevention doesn’t come from encouragement of the kind of awareness and smart choices that increase prevention with lock-solid efficacy. No, no — the solution is to shun millions of people who exist within that biological reality, cruelly shaming their loving desires based on personal biblical interpretation instead of sharing the wealth of knowledge that’s steeped in credible scientific awareness.

In summation: GLAAD hates acronyms with extra vowels. HRC hates bumper stickers. Lambda Legal find courtrooms cold, drafty, and unfairly activist. And all of these gay factions are killing each other, just like these same gay colaitions once gave rise to “six million dead Jews.

You’re a sage among Christians, Mr. Fischer.

::writer rolls eyes, shakes head, and thanks his brain for having the composure to get through the American shame system that makes his in-born reality a hurdle rather than a characteristic. Many are not as lucky::

**

**FOR THOSE NOT FAMILIAR WITH FISCHER: He’s the guy who’s said that “homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews,” who’s said “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” who has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence, has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism,” who’s said only gays were savage enough for Hitler, has compared gays to heroin abusers, has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers, who once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day, who has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers, has questioned why Medals of Honor are given to people who save lives (rather than take lives), who says that open service will “assign the United States to the scrap heap of history,” and who has blamed gay activists for dead gay kids, saying that: “If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students.” His words pretty much single-handedly landed the American Family Association on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate groups list.




Good As You

—  admin

HRC Condemns NY Gov. Candidate Carl Paladino’s Hateful Remarks

Yesterday New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino made anti-gay remarks in a speech in which he said he didn’t want children “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option.”  Paladino’s divisive remarks come amidst news of suicides by young people who faced anti-gay harassment as well as a horrific hate crime in the Bronx that targeted three gay men.

“By his own words, Carl Paladino has made himself the poster boy for the kind of divisive leadership that makes young LGBT people question their self-worth and gives license to those who use violence to advance their hate,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Carl Paladino is either homophobic or stunningly tone deaf to the needs of the community – two qualities New Yorkers don’t want in a Governor.”

The anti-gay tirade came directly after he warned that “we must stop pandering to the pornographers and the perverts who seek to target our children and destroy their lives.”  He blasted his opponent Andrew Cuomo for participating in a gay pride parade, and according to news reports his prepared remarks included the sentence: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

“It’s disgusting to think that Carl Paladino’s idea of celebrating the eve of National Coming Out Day is to tell young LGBT people that they’re not equally valid,” added Solmonese.  “There is nothing to be proud of in giving voice to the kind of divisiveness that so often leads to violence.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Dear Senate Aides: Leave Hateful Comments On Gay Blogs From Your Home Computer

A staffer at Sen. Saxby Chambliss' office posted the comment "All fags must die" on the gay blog Joe.My.God, something that was easily traced thanks to the user's IP address and technological stupidity.


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Queerty

—  John Wright

In Oklahoma, Rep. Sally Kern’s folks get really hateful

I know I shouldn’t expect anything less from the supporters of Sally Kern, but calling my friend, Brittany Novotny, who happens to be trying to run for office because she is more qualified than Sally a “confused it” is rather uncalled for, don’t ya think? Brittany responds with her usual style and grace:

“If Rep. Kern and her allies spent as much time focusing on Oklahoma’s future as they seem to spend worrying about my past, maybe we could keep teachers in the classroom and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” Novotny said. “This type of personal attack is what Oklahomans are tired of, and it shows why Kern and her political allies continue to be out of touch with mainstream Oklahoma values.”

“Certainly there are third parties out there who may not listen to me and may go ahead and personally attack her, just like she may have supporters that don’t take the lead from her and personally attack me,” Novotny said. “It happens. I hope that those voices are kept to a minimum and they don’t overshadow the campaign, because I really do think there are some serious differences in how we see the future of Oklahoma and what we think will be best for our economic development.”

We can all help Brittany unseat a hateful homophobic legislator who infamously proclaimed:

Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam — which I think is a big threat, okay? Cause what’s happening now is they are going after, in schools, two-year olds…And this stuff is deadly, and it’s spreading, and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation.

Send a message by giving generously to Brittany right here.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

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