TEXAS: Repeal Of Domestic Partners Law Hurts El Paso’s Straight Retirees

In November, El Paso’s Pastor Tom Brown organized a successful ballot measure repealing the city’s domestic partners benefits ordinance. But due to its murky wording, the new law may also cut insurance for retired cops and firefighters, among other city workers. All because 19 dirty homos were able to insure their partners.

The measure was aimed at gay workers and their partners. The wording of the proposal, however, was vague, asking El Paso residents to endorse “traditional family values” by limiting benefits to “city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.” So when 55% of the voters approved the measure on Election Day, they eliminated coverage for some 200 people who don’t fit that description—among them elected officials, who aren’t technically city employees, and many former city workers, the city says. Now, officials are weighing what to do. Last month, the city council decided not to use its authority to repeal what is now a city law. On Tuesday, it agreed to allow the city attorney to come up with ways to amend the ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1. But some members warned that they would vote against any proposal that restores benefits for retirees and not for domestic partners.

The local police union is planning a lawsuit against the city. Pastor Brown says if El Paso’s city council attempts to overturn the repeal, he’ll launch a ballot measure stripping them of that power.

(Tipped by JMG reader Melissa)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Michael Medved: Lesbian Sex Is Better, Because It Hurts To Take It In The Ass

“The politically correct attitude not only insists that heterosexual and homosexual relationships are equivalent, but also erases differences between relationships between two women and relationships between two men. If men and women are profoundly different-and both science and common sense tell us they are- then an all-female couple is even more different from an all-male couple than either homosexual bond differs from a heterosexual union.

“This distinction helps explain the oft-noted quirk in public attitudes that sees stronger opposition and denunciation, in the Old Testament and elsewhere, to a physical relationship between two males and intimacy between two females. A physical connection between a female couple, like a physical connection between man and woman, is based primarily on acts of affection. The most common sexual practice between two men involves an act of aggression —inflicting more pain than pleasure for at least one of the parties. Even decisions by Congress, equating homosexual and heterosexual relationships, or erasing distinctions between the interaction between lesbians on the one hand and gay males on the other, cannot repeal politically incorrect realities.” – Wingnut mental case and failed movie critic Michael Medved, writing from beneath a dead squirrel for the website of Seattle’s KTTH radio.

(Tipped by JMG reader Chris)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Hurts Families in Ohio

I am here in Ohio building renewed support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Last night in Columbus, family members of active duty personnel  and veterans who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America, sat down to write letters to Senator Voinovich, reminding him that this discriminatory law is one that not only hurts gay and lesbian families—preventing partners from learning of their loved one’s well-being or fate in the war zone—but also reminding him that active duty personnel already serve, without incident, alongside gay and lesbian troops from other countries that allow open service such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel.  In those nations, gay and lesbian troops, and their families, are treated with respect and dignity.  The same cannot be said for those who serve this country honorably.

Senator Voinovich, who is retiring at the end of the year, has the choice to act honorably himself by recognizing the fundamental discrimination that this law enforces upon the brave men and women who serve our county in uniform.  He can vote to pass the National Defense Authorization Act when it comes before the Senate that includes language to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

If you are a family member of a veteran or active duty service member from Ohio, please call Senator Vonovich’s district office today to ask him to put aside politics and pass the National Defense Authorization Act with language that repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Click here to find his office near you and make that call.  Time is short.  We need your help.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

FALL 2010 MUSIC PREVIEW: Mark Ronson, Robbie Williams, Liza Minnelli, Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Vincent Minor, Antony & The Johnsons, OMD, Yaz, George Michael, Hurts; plus eight free mp3s

Markronson_lead

 
6a00d8341c730253ef0134864b9b2f970c-piMODERN TONIC

Modern Tonic — a daily email that delivers gay-approved pop culture gems (before they've been co-opted by everyone else) — presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad.

Road SPECIAL EDITION: FALL 2010 MUSIC PREVIEW

Unlike the business-as-usual that happens right after Labor Day — back to school, back to work — this fall is full of welcome returns, from old-school influences like Yaz and OMD to that crazy Cee-Lo Green and Liza with a Z. Plenty of fresh upstarts have us excited as well. For the full audio/visual experience, we have twelve new tracks for you to stream or download just below. Here's to a season of kick-ass music!



Towleroad – Fall 2010 Music Preview by moderntonic.com Road

IT'S RAINING MEN:

Markronsoncover Mark Ronson & the Business Intl — Record Collection
(September 28): The man who brought Amy Winehouse to the masses returns with Record Collection, an album that curbs his retro soul proclivities for a trek through the ‘80s and ‘90s on 14 original songs. The busy DJ-producer (pictured above) gets help from Boy George (vocals on "Somebody to Love Me"), D’Angelo ("Glass Mountain Trust"), the London Gay Men’s Chorus ("Introducing the Business") and debuts his own vocal chops for the first time, singing on two songs, including the title track (backed by Nick Rhodes on keyboards and Simon Le Bon!).

Photo_BrandonFl_300RGB-1 Brandon Flowers — Flamingo (September 14): The Killers’ flamboyant frontman drops his first solo release, Flamingo. He’s still in thrall to the cinematic sweep of Bruce Springsteen on the single "Crossfire," with a sprinkling of New Wave influence, as on "Only the Young." Still, it’s more Sam’s Town than Hot Fuss, with songs about his biggest inspirations, namely, his Mormon faith ("Playing with Fire") and his hometown of Las Vegas ("Hard Enough," a duet with Jenny Lewis).
 
Cee-Lo Green — The Lady Killer (December 7): For anyone predetermined to dislike The Lady Killer — the Gnarls Barkley singer’s first solo album in six years —  Cee-Lo Green has two words to say:  "F**k You." That song’s received about five million hits so far on YouTube. (A clean version, "Forget You," went to radio.) It’s the peppiest kiss-off we’ve heard in ages and could become as ubiquitous as Gnarls Barkley’s unstoppable "Crazy." He’s got our attention and now we can’t wait to find out if the rest of the album’s as much nasty fun.

RW-hits-520x520 Robbie Williams — In and Out of Consciousness: The Greatest Hits 1990-2010 (October 12): Right, he’s still not a star here and the Brokeback Mountain video for his latest single "Shame," featuring his old Take That mate Gary Barlow, isn’t going to change his fortunes. But it’s a gorgeously earthy mid-tempo ballad that fits alongside what’s now an impressive collection of songs from over 20 years. On two discs, the neophyte can hear such gems as "Rock DJ," the Pet Shops Boys-assisted "No Regrets" and, of course, "Angels" (so popular in the U.K. it’s practically a national anthem). For Robbie fanatics, two other configurations, available as imports, include a third CD of B-sides and rarities (Deluxe Edition) and three DVDs of live performances and videos (Ultimate Edition).

Also: Chromeo — Business Casual (September 14); Maroon 5 — Hands All Over (September 21); Seal — 6: Commitment (September 28); Neil Young — Le Noise (September 28); Tricky — Mixed Race (October 5); Ursula 1000 — Fuzz EP (October 5 digital/October 19 physical); Simian Mobile Disco — Is Fixed (October 12); Styrofoam — Disco Synthesizers & Daily Tranquilizers (October 12); Elton John/Leon Russell — The Union (October 19); William Orbit — Pieces in a Modern Style 2 (October 26); Bryan Ferry — Olympia (October 26); Jamiroquai — Rock Dust Light Star (November TBA); Lee Dewyze — title TBD (November 16)

RoadSingle Ladies (Put a Ring On It):

Liza CD cover - photo credit Ruven Afanador Liza Minnelli — Confessions (September 28): The 14 tracks of Liza’s twelfth studio album are a piano bar lover’s wet dream. Accompanied by her long-time pianist Billy Stritch, Liza — yes, we’re on a first name basis — offers straight up, elegant takes on some songbook classics ("At Last," "All the Way") with a few esoteric choices. Our favorite? It’s a toss-up between the Billie Holiday chestnut "I Must Have That Man" and Sonny Burke’s "He’s a Tramp." Meet us downtown at the Duplex and we’ll decide it in a sing-off.

Mariah Carey — Merry Christmas II You (November 2): While the blogosphere has been focused on Mariah Carey's yet-to-be-confirmed pregnancy, Mimi herself has been hard at work on yet another holiday record. This time, rumor has it, she's written and recorded two songs with Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman, "Christmas Time Is in the Air Again" and "One Child." Perhaps it's redundant that Our Lady of the Octaves is going all Christmas on us again, but since her 1994 release Merry Christmas was a contemporary holiday classic, we're all ears.

Photo_NickiMina_300RGB Nicki Minaj — Pink Friday (November 23): The Trinidad-born American rapper/collaboration queen will release her long-awaited debut in time for Thanksgiving. It looks to be a cornucopia of fresh rhymes and beats, with some smart sample choices; single "Your Love" — which features a vocal sample of Annie Lennox’s "No More 'I Love You's'" — is a salty slow burn, the grime-y "Massive Attack," with rapper/producer Sean Garrett is bottom-heavy hip-hop reggae. She’s also released some fantastic one-offs: her turn with will.i.am on "Check It Out" quotes The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" on its way to AutoTune’d glory, she added spice to Mariah Carey’s "Up Out My Face" and her "mixtapes" are genius (be sure to seek out the super-filthy "Ice Cream Man"). This is one artist to watch.

Also: Olivia Newton-John — Grace and Gratitude Renewed (September 14); Michelle Branch — Everything Comes and Goes (September 14); Zayra — Baby Likes to Bang EP (September 14); Paula Cole — Ithaca (September 21); Jane Monheit — Home (September 21); Shontelle — No Gravity (September 21); Nellie McKay — Home Sweet Mobile Home (September 28); KT Tunstall — Tiger Suit (October 5); Ciara — Basic Instinct (October 5); Shelby Lynne — Merry Christmas (October 12); Juliette Commagere — The Procession (October 26); Rihanna — Loud (November 16); Keri Hilson — No Boys Allowed (November TBA); Norah Jones — …Featuring (November 2); Annie Lennox — A Christmas Cornucopia (November 22)

RoadJohnny, Are You Queer?

Vincentminor3 Vincent Minor — Vincent Minor (September 21): Has Rufus Wainwright made the world safe for opulent gay singer-songwriters? We think so. L.A.-based Michael Mangia — who records as Vincent Minor — is a maverick in much the manner of Wainwright, able to compress a century of compositional genres at will. The result? A stunning debut as at home with a momentous music-hall whimsy ("Late Night Show") as it is with twisted psychedelic balladry (the Harry Nilsson-meets-George Gershwin of "So F**ked Up"). His is a fresh, innovative voice, and anything but minor.
 
Antony and the Johnsons — Swanlights (October 12): It’s nearly impossible to describe the otherworldly contours of Antony Hegarty’s astonishing voice. Whether he’s elegizing the destruction of the planet (as he did on last year’s The Crying Light) or plumbing new depths in a cover of Beyoncé’s "Crazy in Love," his vibrato-drenched phrasing is a sucker-punch to the gut. What new surprises and depths of feeling are in store for us with Swanlights? If recent R&B-tinged song "Thank You for Your Love" is any indication, we can expect simpler arrangements but the same expressive directness, plus cameo-weirdness from Bjőrk on duet "Flétta."

Diamond Rings Face Close Up Diamond Rings — Special Affections (October 26): John O’Regan — the gangly Canadian with an affinity for Bowie-esque eye shadow who records as Diamond Rings — traffics in a hyper-melodic strain of New Wave revisionism on his debut Special Affections. He meshes the icy grandeur of OMD with the romantic swoon of the Magnetic Fields on "On Our Own," and sounds like The National in love with New Order on "Wait & See." We miss the house-jumping rhythms of his single "Show Me Your Stuff" — not included here — but there’s plenty to love without it.

Dark Dark Dark — Wild Go (October 5): If Regina Spektor fronted world-music aficionados Beirut, they might sound something like the Minneapolis group Dark Dark Dark. Songwriters Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount’s sophomore album Wild Go is a gorgeous indie hybrid. On the single "Daydreaming," Invie speculates about "all the unspeakable things" with all the intensity of Fiona Apple thrashing half-naked on a floor. And LaCount’s reedy tenor anchors Invies’ haunting countermelody on the eerie waltz "Heavy Heart."

Also: La Cage Aux Folles: New Broadway Cast Recording (September 28)

RoadPop Muzik:

OMD2 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark — History of Modern (September 28): Though we love the bands we like to call "retro electro" (La Roux, Kids of 88, etc.), we still enjoy getting our kicks at the source. OMD’s eleventh release, History of Modern, stands tall as a follow-up to their classics Architecture & Morality, Junk Culture and Crush. Opener "New Babies: New Toys" is sleek New Wave goodness. The single "If You Want It" updates the yearning openness of "If You Leave." And — wait — is that Aretha Franklin’s sampled vocals on the robotically funky "Save Me?" Why, yes it is. Damn!

Yaz — Reconnected Live (September 28):  Whether you call them Yazoo or Yaz, the New Wave duo’s 2009 reunion concerts were special, and here’s proof — a double-disc of euphoria featuring the hits "Nobody’s Diary," "Don’t Go" and "Situation" (not about the Jersey Shore himbo). Alison Moyet’s never been in finer voice — that husky soul croon’s like a warm blanket of memories — and knob-twiddler Vince Clarke’s better here than he ever was with Depeche Mode or Erasure.

Faith George Michael — Faith (Special Edition) (October 5): When he isn’t trying to cop a feel from the Beverly Hills police or driving under the influence of Class C narcotics, George Michael — you might remember — is a pop star. If you want to jog your memory, along comes this Special Edition of his bestselling Faith, with two CDs featuring the remastered album, 12-inches and B-sides, and a special edition with a DVD of interviews and music videos.
   
RoadNew Moon On Monday:

PastedGraphic-4 For those always on the lookout for fresh meat (and you know we’re talking to you), this autumn check out Deluka (pictured) and Shit Robot. The U.K.’s Deluka offers stomping retro electro on You Are the Night (September 21 digital; October 12 CD). Front-woman Ellie Innocenti is not so innocent on tracks like the glitchy opener "OMFG" and power popping single "Cascade." DFA artist and DJ Marcus Lambkin — who records as Shit Robot — drops (the brilliantly titled) From the Cradle to the Rave (September 21), nine club-friendly tracks like the Barry White send-up of "I Found Love" and the sweet modern disco of "Losing My Patience," with vocals from Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor.

Also: Hope — Hope (October TBA)

RoadTODAY'S NEW RELEASES:

Hurts1 Out yesterday in the U.K. (no U.S. release date set yet), Hurts’ much-anticipated debut Happiness is synth-duo drama at its most heightened. The Manchester pair of Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson channel Tears for Fears on single "Wonderful Life" and invite Kylie Minogue along for a menacing ride on "Devotion."

California's Sara Bareilles follows up her smash Little Voice and its number one hit "Love Song" with Kaleidoscope Heart, 13 easy-rocking tunes that will wind down your summer and warm your heart.

Robyn_Body-Talk-Pt-2_500x500 Disco pixie Robyn keeps cranking 'em out this year. Body Talk Pt. 2 consists of eight tunes of streamlined dance highlighted by a full-band version of the previously acoustic "Hang With Me" and "U Should Know Better," a raging slab of electroclash with Snoop Dogg.

The gloomy New York quartet Interpol bid farewell to bassist Carlos D on their self-titled fourth, 10 sinuous tracks of dark indie tunes. Mr. D. goes out in style on the bass-heavy "Summer Well" and the prickly single "Barricade."

Also: Jerry Lee Lewis — Mean Old Man; The Thermals — Personal Life; Venetian Snares — My So-Called Life; Ludo — Prepare the Preparations; Brendan James — Brendan James; Helmet — Seeing Eye Dog


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Mega Hurts: Brit Synth Duo Confides in Kylie

Hurts

I'm intrigued in a very 80's way by Hurts, the Manchester synth pop duo of Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, who were mentioned earlier in this week's music post. Their debut album, Happiness, is out at the beginning of September, and features a duet with Kylie Minogue.

Here they are covering Kylie's track "Confide in Me" (via arjan). I've also posted the videos for their first tracks "Wonderful Life" and "Better Than Love".

Watch all the clips, and listen to the Kylie duet, AFTER THE JUMP

"Better Than Love" and "Wonderful Life":


Here's the Kylie duet, Devotion:


Hurts ft Kylie – Devotion by iwantmorenewmusic


Towleroad News #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