We’re quickly heading towards zero major gay accomplishments by the Obama administration this term

With the imminent demise of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise that did not, in any case, repeal DADT (even though the NYT and other lazy journalists like to claim it did), and the imminent demise of the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, President Obama is about to have accomplished a record zero of his top promises to the gay community. A record that, if we lose the House, will likely remain at zero for the next six years, if the President is so lucky as to win re-election.

We were told that the President simply couldn’t get to his promises to our community in his first two years in office because we are a nation at war, and he had to work on health care reform, the economy, and many other issues that were meant to believe were far more important than our basic civil and human rights.

And now, after all the pandering by all the pro-Obama apologists who said that we were wrong to ask the President to address our community’s needs during his first two years in office, that we were wrong to warn of the imminent loss of a Democratically-controlled House, and how that loss would stymie gay rights progress for years to come, and that we were wrong to suggest that this President would never, ever get to addressing a real repeal of DADT and DOMA, and the passage of ENDA – after all that, it turns out we were right.

Barack Obama is on the precipice of accomplishing a grand total of none of his major promises to gay and lesbian Americans in return for our supporting his candidacy with our votes and our money. I’m not smelling change.

What do the apologists, who criticized our criticism at every turn, say now?

1. That it’s not Obama’s fault that we’re about to lose the House? Perhaps, though I would argue that it’s precisely Obama’s fault that Democrats are in such a sorry state. After all, who’s the leader of our party? Who took the lead in setting our agenda last year, and took the lead in dumbing down every single Democratic accomplishment from the stimulus to health care reform so that none of them would have a significant enough impact to win over the American people, cure our economic and health care woes, and thus create a strong case for maintaining Democratic control of Washington?

(Obama was warned that the stimulus wasn’t big enough, that the economy wouldn’t rebound fast enough, and that it would not only hurt our chances for a second stimulus, but would also hurt our chances at retaining control of Congress. And what did he do? He asked for a stimulus that he knew was one half the size of what was needed, and then handed 35% of it to Republicans in the form of near-useless (in stimulus terms) tax cuts. And now the economy is f’d, the voters are pissed, and Democrats are about to lose control of the House. This is a class-A f-up. And it’s one that the President walked right into, with full knowledge of the consequences. But he did it anyway. And now we’re f’d. Tell me again why I shouldn’t be pissed at the man?)

If Barack Obama’s fear of confrontation, and his incessant need to compromise on everything, regardless of whether such compromise was necessary, didn’t set the agenda for the Democratic fall, and fail, then what did?

But let’s put that aside for a moment.

2. It clearly was Barack Obama’s choice not to move ahead with any of his major promises to the gay community in the first two years of his administration. No one else is to blame other than the President for that simple decision. That decision may have killed any chance of ever passing ENDA, or repealing DADT and DOMA, for the entire four years that President Obama in office. It was Barack Obama’s choice not to even touch DADT until this year, and then not to push for a full repeal, but rather some make-shift compromise that may, or may not, lead to some kind of change in the policy at some future date (though what kind of change, for the better or the worse, isn’t a guarantee). We simply weren’t important enough, and now it appears we are getting nothing.

What is the point anymore?

Democrats like Andy Tobias lecture us like we’re children, like we’re naive to expect President Obama to actually keep his explicit promises to us during the campaign. We were told that Obama would be our “fierce advocate.” We were told that by Barack Obama himself. That, my friends, has turned out to be a crock. The President is not our advocate, and on no issue, gay or otherwise, is the man fierce. Yes, he appointed a lot of gays to decent, but not the most senior, positions in his administration. Is it somehow now a great accomplishment for a Democrat not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring and firing for lower and mid level jobs, but to discriminate on such a basis for cabinet jobs, senior White House position, and positions on the Supreme Court? Tell me again who is gay in the senior reaches of this White House – can anyone name even one person? And how about the Cabinet? And spare us the “head of OPM is gay” line. First off, OPM isn’t a cabinet-level position. Second, the appointee’s previous job was running the National Zoo. He’s not involved in any serious discussion of federal policy on the largest issues of the day. And if he is involved on gay issues, he’s clearly failed.

So what was the point of voting for President Obama, over Hillary, for example, if you’re gay? If he wasn’t going to keep his top promises to our community, then how was he any better than Hillary, or any other Democrat running at the time? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have appointed more gays than any previous administration? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have signed the Hate Crimes bill? President Obama has done nothing on gay civil rights that any other Democrat wouldn’t have done in his stead. Such is not a definition of fierce advocate. It’s the definition of business as usual. And it’s not a very compelling argument to justify voting for one Democrat over another in the future, if words and promises are meaningless, and the candidate’s actions in office are indistinguishable from any other Democrat.

And finally, there’s DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias’ favorite argument. Sure the President lied to us, Tobias seems to imply, but he’s a nicer liar than John McCain would have been. And Andy is right. As much as we seem to have now been betrayed by the Obama campaign’s false promise of hope, John McCain would have been an even bigger liar and worse president (though, at least, McCain wouldn’t have lied about what was coming). But as I’ve written before, I’m not a big fan of being betrayed by friends, even when I know my enemies would have treated me worse. I expect my enemies to treat me like a pariah. I don’t expect my friends to do the same. And in many ways, it’s worse when the indifference, and the lies, come from a friend rather than an enemy.

But, yes, Andy is right. A lying president who has repeatedly endorsed bigotry against LGBT Americans is still better than a flaming bigot who almost always endorses bigotry against us. I guess. And I’m sure Andy will keep touting his increasingly long, and ridiculously thin, list of mostly-minor Obama accomplishments on gay issues, such as our invitation to an Easter Egg roll, and the cocktail party thrown to make up for the President’s lawyers having invoked incest and pedophilia to justify his defense of the despicably bigoted Defense of Marriage Act. The President is still defending DOMA and DADT in court. And conservatives are having a field day quoting the President’s supposed new-found opposition to gay marriage (which is a lot like his new-found support for offshore drilling – kind of hard to explain a valid reason to explain either flip-flop) in order to justify their own bigoted views. But hey, we’ll always have that Easter Egg roll.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Barack Obama is not an agent of change. He’s not out to fundamentally transform our government or our country, and he’s never going to be anyone’s fierce advocate. If gay voters want to hand their money and their ballots over to someone who won’t keep his major promises, who won’t significantly advance the cause of their civil rights, who will outright work against those promises as we attempt to advance our civil rights in courts of law, but who at least won’t be as big a bigot as John McCain, then they are certainly welcome to support him with all their hearts and wallets. I for one am not feeling an overwhelming desire to donate another ,000 to, or raise another ,000 for, a candidate who promises me the moon and then seems almost embarrassed of me the morning after the election.

Perhaps it is naive. But I expect politicians to at least try to keep their major promises. I never said they have to succeed. But they have to at least TRY. Our fierce advocate seems fiercely indifferent. And I fear that an increasing number of Democratic voters now share his indifference.




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

Readers Voice Awards – Travel


RIGHT AT HOME: Owner Wayne Falcone polished a gem of Oak Lawn history by rescuing and reinventing the Daisy Polk House. – DANIEL A. KUSNER/Dallas Voice

BEST BED AND BREAKFAST


Daisy Polk Inn
2917 Reagan St., Dallas.
214-522-4692
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Daisy Suite and Reagan Suite: $150 a night.
Dickason Suite: $129 a night.
DaisyPolkInn.com

The Daisy Polk Inn is every bit the grand dame that its namesake was. Built in 1904 and fully restored by 2002, the home was first owned by, who else, Daisy Polk — an “up and coming” star (according to the Dallas Press) of the Dallas opera scene who also taught at Hockaday School for Girls and passed away in 1980.

She lived at the Reagan Street address for 60 years. The gorgeous arts and crafts home now belongs to local pharmacist Wayne Falcone, who purchased the property in 1996. He lovingly restored it to its natural and historically correct beauty with the help of Dallas antiques expert and interior designer Gerald Tomlin.

Once the home was granted historical status and licensure to become a bed and breakfast, Falcone decided to open its doors to the public.

Guests can rent any one of the three rooms or the whole place if they prefer. Unlike typical B&Bs. Falcone turns over the keys to his guests, and they have the place to themselves until morning, when breakfast is served. And breakfast at the Daisy Polk Inn is no simple affair. From the china to the home-baked goodies, it is a lavish meal that guests won’t soon forget.

— Jenny Block

 



BEST ROMANTIC GETAWAY
New Orleans, La.
Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:
NewOrleansCVB.com
Visitor’s bureau LGBT focus:
NewOrleansOnline GLBT

 

A little more than two years ago, most of America seemed to have written off New Orleans — it was destined to become a modern-day Atlantis, swallowed up by the sea and passed away into legend.

But the residents of the Crescent City would have none of that. They persevered, rehabilitating the city as quickly as possible and welcoming back tourists — especially gay tourists — with enthusiasm. (It helps that the French Quarter, the center of gay life, is above sea-level and was largely spared when the levees broke.)

Certainly bachelor revelers into great partying and easy hookups don’t have to find a reason to frequent the Big Easy other than Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence, but the city’s old antebellum charm makes it a romantic getaway for couples, too.

For exploring together, there’s the fabulous architecture, much of it spared from the hurricane: elaborate wrought iron, ethereal churches, sprawling plantations on the outskirts (including one, Houmas House, where “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” was filmed).

Then there’s the food, an essential component whenever lovers get together. Creole and Cajun cuisine, from rich cream sauces to spices that can shoot steam from your ears, dominate, but the French influences extend all the way to the café au lait and beignets. And is there anything more romantic than a boat ride along the Mighty Mississip?

So yes, New Orleans is a great party town for solos, but we love to go there as pairs. After all, even couples know how to party.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 


BEST AIRLINE
American Airlines
Corporate headquarters: 4333 Amon Carter Blvd., Fort Worth, Texas.
817-963-1234, 800-321-2121
Mon.-Sat. 24 hrs.
aa.com or American Airlines Rainbow

 


BEST NATIONAL ONLINE TRAVEL SITE
Travelocity
Corporate headquarters: 3150 Sabre Drive, Southlake, Texas.
888-872-8356
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Travelocity.com

BEST LOCAL ONLINE TRAVEL SITE
Best Gay Cruises
P.O. Box 59994, Dallas.
972-241-2000
Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
BestGayCruises.com


BEST BUDGET HOTEL CHAIN
La Quinta
Corporate headquarters: 909 Hidden Ridge, Suite 600, Irving, Texas.
800-642-4271
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
LQ.com


BEST LUXURY HOTEL CHAIN
Hilton Hotels
Eight hotels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
800-774-1500
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Hilton.com


BEST DALLAS HOTEL
W Dallas-Victory
2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas.
888-625-5144
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
WHotels.com/Dallas


BEST AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE
SuperShuttle
SuperShuttle local office: 3010 N. Airfield Drive, Suite 100, DFW Airport, Texas.
With service to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field and Fort Worth Meacham International Airport.
800-258-3826
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
SuperShuttle.com

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
Rainbow Ranch
1662 Limestone County Road 800, Groesbeck, Texas.
888-875-7596
Sun.-Thu. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
RainbowRanch.net

BEST LOCAL TOURIST DESTINATION
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
411 Elm St., Suite 120.
214-747-6660
Tue.-Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.,
Mon. noon-6 p.m.
JFK.org

BEST LOCAL TOURIST TRAP
West End Historical District
214-741-7180
DallasWestEnd.org

BEST VACATION SPOT TO GET LAID
Palm Springs, Calif.
Palm Springs tourism bureau:
Palm-Springs.org


BEST EXOTIC DESTINATION
Hawaii
Official tourism site: GoHawaii.com

‘GET ME OUT OF HERE!’ DESTINATION
Jamaica
Visitor Web site: ComeToJamaica.com

These articles appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008

—  admin