Visitation, ours: ‘Here I brought you this flower, dying spouse’ remains evangelical hot potato

So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that social conservatives like Matt Barber are 100% committed to their convictions against sinners as they usually describe them. Does this mean that they’d deny obstetric services to adulterers? Cut off treatment to an overdosing drug addict? Nix life-saving surgery to an alcoholic victim of a booze-induced car accident? Limit hospital visitation only to those whose lie detector results prove that they’ve borne true witness all year?

Screen Shot 2010-11-19 At 2.54.13 PmOr: Is it only one kind of “sinner” that they care to target? This from the American Family Association’s One News Now:

According to the new rule, which takes effect in 60 days, hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid money have to inform patients of their right to designate a spouse, domestic partner, family member, or a friend. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday the rule grants “full and equal” rights to patients to choose who they want by their bedside. But Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel points out they already have the right to choose visitors.



[Matt] Barber considers the new rules political theater in trying to create the disingenuous idea that people based on their so-called “sexual orientation” are roundly discriminated against. Faith-based hospitals are not exempt from the rule.

“Certainly there are Catholic hospitals and Baptist hospitals that recognize homosexual behavior as sinful behavior,” he points, “and they do not want to take part in affirming homosexual sin under the strong arm of the government.”

Some religious hospitals may have to make a decision as to whether to conform to the rules or not accept Medicare patients. Barber says what the Obama administration is doing is casting liberty of conscience aside and forcing acceptance of homosexuality

Feds to hospitals: Go gay…or go broke [ONN]

Honestly, if you’re at a medical hospital that holds this as the (or even a) focus, then you might wanna go somewhere else anyway. And this goes not only for gays — it goes for anyone among us who’d much rather get the fast cure than cast the first stone!




Good As You

—  admin

“Ep. 5: How being gay is like cheating on your spouse”



In Debate, O’Donnell Likens Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell To Adultery [Think Progress]




Good As You

—  John Wright

Libertarian Party To Gays: Leave Your Abusive Democratic “Spouse” And Join Us

The Libertarian Party has launched a campaign to lure gay voters, saying, “Like abused spouses who keep returning to their aggressors, gay voters keep handing their votes to the Democrats who abuse them.” The statement continues:

The Libertarian Party (LP) wants to break this self-destructive behavior and offers LGBT voters a better alternative. LP Chairman Mark Hinkle said, “Exit polls indicate that Democrats get over 70% of LGBT votes in federal elections. Those voters must really love the Democrats’ rhetoric, because they certainly aren’t seeing any action. “President Obama and the Democrats had almost a year of complete control of the federal government: the Presidency, the House, and a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.

“They could have repealed ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ They could have gotten rid of the Defense of Marriage Act. But they didn’t do either of those things. That’s a complete and total betrayal of all the promises they made to gay and lesbian voters for years. “After a carefully orchestrated failure in the Senate, the Democrats are now blaming Republicans for blocking the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ Of course, three Democrats just voted against it too, including Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid claims he voted for procedural reasons, but the whole situation seems calculated to look like they’re trying to help, while making sure they don’t actually help.” Unlike the Democratic and Republican Parties, the Libertarian Party believes that gays and lesbians deserve equal treatment under the law.

The statement concludes that the Libertarian Party “neither supports nor opposes gay relationships.”

Obviously the Libertarian Party seeks to capitalize on LGBT disenchantment with the Obama administration and further splinter the gay vote to the benefit of the GOP. Nothing more, nothing less. Most self-described libertarian candidates, of course, actually run on the GOP ticket. (Witness today’s post about Colorado’s Stephen Bailey.) Very few officially Libertarian candidates ever become viable candidates in general elections. Talk about throwing your vote away!

But just for the sake of argument, let’s tick off the official Libertarian agenda as posted on their website:

1. Abolish welfare.
2. Abolish Social Security.
3. Abolish the IRS.
4. Abolish the FDA.
5. Allow insurance companies to exclude any disease.
6. Dismantle the public school system.
7. Allow machine gun ownership and open-carry anywhere.
8. End foreign aid to starving nations.
9. Sell all national parks to private groups.

To be fair, the Libertarian Party does have reasonable positions on immigration reform, privacy, and the war on drugs. But the essential takeaway from reading their platform is this: “If you are impoverished, starving, desperately ill, unemployed, or uneducated…tough shit. Don’t come to the government with your lazy unpatriotic hand out. Every American for himself. Get the fuck out of here.”

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

DADT Spouse Survey Revealed

DADTSpouseSurveyx180 (Facebook) | Advocate.comA survey of military spouses asks whether they would encourage their husbands or wives to leave the armed services if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is repealed.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Lynne Kennedy, a military spouse

The Pentagon is surveying military spouses about the repeal of DADT. Servicemembers United calls that survey “insulting and derogatory.” SLDN wants the Pentogon Working Group to hear from spouses and family members who have been directly impacted by DADT. From SLDN:

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.

Here’s the first letter. It’s from Lynne Kennedy, the partner of Capt. Joan Darrah, U.S. Navy (Ret.):

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

In 1990 – while working as a reference librarian at the Library of Congress — I met Joan Darrah, an active duty Naval Officer. I already knew about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I soon woke up to the harsh reality that loved ones of gay and lesbian family members are forced to serve in silence, too.

Over the years, Joan had adjusted to living two lives — in the closet at work and out after hours. For me, it was a bit of an adjustment as I had been fortunate to work for an employer who valued my skills and expertise and realized that my being a lesbian in no way detracted from my ability to do a great job.

I knew that Joan could be deployed at any moment. She may be away from home for two or three years. I realized that being with an active duty military officer was even more constricting than I could have possibly imagined and I worried constantly about Joan’s well being. Yet, through it all, I knew our relationship was worth the compromises. I knew we had to make it work for Joan to continue to serve our Country.

There were so many things that we had to be careful about. For example, Joan had asked that I not call her at work unless it was truly an emergency. When we were out in public if Joan saw someone from work, I learned to “disappear,” until Joan’s co-worker moved on. We didn’t dare go to nice restaurants on Valentine’s Day or even Saturday nights. We could not show any familiarity while out in public. I went to parties at colleagues’ homes alone lest a guest I didn’t know learn that Joan was in the Navy.

The events of September 11, 2001, caused us both appreciate more fully the true impact of DADT on our lives and the reality of our mutual sacrifices. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, Joan went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., she left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., the plane flew into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space that Joan had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of her colleagues.

In the days and weeks that followed, Joan went to several funerals and memorial services for her co-workers who had been killed. Most people attended these services with their spouses whose support was critical at this difficult time, yet Joan was forced to go alone, even though I really wanted to be with her to provide support.

As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone I would have been had Joan been killed. The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the “military family,” which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But, none of that support would have been available for me, because under DADT, I didn’t exist.

In fact, I would have been one of the last people to know had Joan been killed, because nowhere in her paperwork or emergency contact information had Joan dared to list my name.

Whenever I hear Joan recount the events of that day, I relive it and realize all over again how devastated I would have been had she been killed. I also think of the partners of service members injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are unable to get any support from the military and they must be careful about the amount of support they offer to their closeted service member loved ones.

The events of September 11th caused us to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process, we realized that this discriminatory law was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Eight months later, in June 2002, Joan retired from the U.S. Navy, and I retired from the Library of Congress. If it wasn’t for DADT, we might both still be serving in our respective positions.

Lynne Kennedy

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

DADT: Spouse Survey Revealed

NOTE FROM PAM: The reaction from Servicemembers United…

“This survey of military spouses contains many of the same insulting and derogatory assumptions and insinuations about gays and lesbians that ran throughout the last survey,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” “Answer choices suggest things like the Defense Department possibly distributing flyers in military neighborhoods if, as they say, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is repealed and that the 'readiness' of military families might somehow be impacted. Again we stress that neither the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nor anyone else would ever stand for such insulting questions being asked about any other minority group in the military in this day and age. The Pentagon's senior leadership should seriously consider Servicemembers United's offer to meet with them in person to talk about the insensitivity of these surveys and how the poor handling of these surveys might negatively impact implementation.”


 

 Politico has posted a copy of the survey about “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” the Department of Defense is sending out to 150,000 (opposite-sex) spouses of servicemembers.

To be fair, promising reports broke Wednesday that a Pentagon spokes person called speaking to same-sex spouses a “high priority” for the working group. But upon closer examination, as with the original survey of troops, it does seem little thought was actually given to how to get around the problems inherent to DADT legislation.

Regardless, the survey indicates that the Pentagon Working Group learned little from the previous uproar and repeats many of the same errors. After the fold some select questions and commentary.

———————————————————–

 

Cross posted at Daily Kos, please rec if you can.

Granted this process was flawed from the start, both from a political and policy point.

Politically, slow walking any change is death. We saw how the GOP managed to turn the August break last year into “death panel”-palooza. As a strategy, slow-walking the repeal process may please the Pentagon, but it pleases no one else. Repeal advocates are frustrated and have hardly been quietier than they were when they were chaining themselves to the White House fence.

The discharge of Lt. Dan Choi and impending discharge of Lt Col. Victor Fahrenbach continue to make bad news for the administration. (See, July 10, 2010: Obama can't shake gay-rights fights). Fahrenbach's Hail Mary pass to save his career almost certainly will soon culminate in the Obama Justice Department marching into court to argue they can fire gay people just because they feel like it. We can argue whether they can do anything else, but it will be nails on a chalkboard for every LGBT American invested in being treated free of discrimination.

Meanwhile, the opposition still finds itself in a position to rally their own troops, creating their own distracting headlines and keeping the culture war alive.

And it isn't a strategy based on good policy. The Palm Center's report on 25 allied nations methods of addressing this issue found:

“All the countries studied completed their implementations of repeal either immediately or within four months of the government’s decision to end discrimination. These experiences confirm research findings which show that a quick, simple implementation process is instrumental in ensuring success. Swift, decisive implementation signals the support of top leadership and confidence that the process will go smoothly, while a “phased-in” implementation can create anxiety, confusion, and obstructionism.”

“Anxiety, confusion and obstructionism?” Sound familiar? Here's the latest round.

The Politico story is here, and a link to the survey is here (warning PDF).

The letter that accompanied the survey:

And again, they are testing the troop's gaydar as Nate Silver pointed out:

8. Has your spouse ever worked on a daily basis with an individual he or she believed to be a homosexual Service member?
Yes
No
Don't know

I just find this just so ridiculously over-dramatic.

11. If Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed, the military will want to prepare and assist spouses in understanding the new policy. How would you like the military to provide you with information on the new policy? MARK ALL THAT APPLY
• No special activities or communications would be necessary
• Distribute printed information to spouses about repeal
• Provide information about repeal on military Web sites
• Have interactive chats available on line to answer questions from Service member spouses
• Provide information through military chaplains trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Provide information through military counselors trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Provide information through Family Readiness Group/Work-Life Program leaders trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Offer courses to spouses on how to discuss repeal within their families.
• Other, please specify: ______

How much is there to explain? Daddy or mommy's co-worker isn't getting kicked out anymore.

I mean, courses? Courses? They're going to make a whole curriculum on this issue? Will it be accredited? Can you get your BA in “Mommy works with a Homo?” So the whole family can go in an learn how to tell little Bobby, “Ok, you know that girl Michelle that Daddy works with? At the end of the day, when she's done filling artillery shells, she goes home to a woman, not a  man. She always did, but now the Army has decided that it's ok for her to say it out loud. So, we just want you to be prepared that Daddy's friend at work may say she's a “lesbian” sometime over the course of her workday with daddy. Do you know what a lesbian is?”

It's just absurd to me.

16. How important a factor would a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell be to you in making decisions about your spouse's future in the military?
• Very important
• Important
• Neither important nor unimportant
• Unimportant
• Very unimportant
• Don't Know

19. Would a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell affect your willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend?
• Yes, I would be more likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• Yes, I would be less likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• No, it would not affect my willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• Don't know

I seriously wonder, why bother asking this question? Can anything useful be gleaned from whether the spouses would recommend service? Of all the factors that influence the military's ability to recruit–compensation, safety, VA benefits, college tuition, economic climate, current military mission–does anyone imagine spouses attitudes about DADT could possibly have a measurable impact?

24. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed and you live on-base housing. If a gay or lesbian Service member lived in your neighborhood with their partner, would you stay on-base or try to move out?
• I would stay on-base
• I would try to move out
• Don't Know
• Does not apply, I would not live on-base

25. While living on-base, which of the following would  you do?
• I would make a special effort to get to know the gay or lesbian Service member
• I would get to know them like any other neighbor
• I would generally avoid them when I could
• I would do nothing
• I would do something else, please specify ______
• Don't know

These are the sorts of questions many heterosexuals may never understand why the very premise is so offensive. The very framing of “like” any other neighbor. Which of course they are not, they're gay, they're gay, they're gay! OMG! They're gay!

All my neighbors in my Brooklyn apartment building live daily with a gay neighbor (actually, several). I doubt they queried the landlord how many known homosexuals lived in the building before they signed their lease.

And life goes on. They water my plants when I'm out of town, and I'll move their clothes into the dryer if they ask me to and hand me the quarters.

The military taking time to survey such a thing is a validation of the viewpoint that objecting to living near a homosexual is somehow rational, somehow a viewpoint that should be considered. As Servicemeber's United's Alex Nicholson said of the last survey, “it is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations going out about any other minority group in the military.”

The survey also hints that the DOD may shape their obligations to LGB servicemembers' spouses and partners around this popular vote. We see hints of this in the following questions.

27. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. Would attendance of a gay or lesbian Service member with his or her partner affect how often you attend these types of military social events?
• Yes, I would attend these types of military social events more often
• Yes, I would attend these types of military social events less often
• No, it would not affect my attendance at these types of military social events
• Don't know

29. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed and your spouse is deployed. Would the presence of a partner of a gay or lesbian Service member affect how often you attend deployment-support activities?
• Yes, I would attend deployment-support activities more often
• Yes, I would attend deployment-support activities less often
• No, it would not affect my attendance at deployment-support activities
• Don't know

Will the answer to these questions determine whether LGB servicemembers' spouses are included or excluded from company events or support services?

Granted how the military goes forward on the issue of LGB partners is far from clear. DOMA prevents them from legally recognizing spouses, at least monetarily. They won't be given pensions, health insurance, placed in military housing. (Unless the military tried to use their time-honor deference from the Constitution to argue that DOMA–like freedom of speech and expression–does not apply to them. Hmmmm….? Pipe dream.)

But regardless, the topic has been put on the table. And even if the military stands up, does the right thing and implements a policy of inclusion, you've handed fuel to opponents. They will always be able to say, “But they asked our opinion and defied our will!” They will claim survey bias and victimhood at the gay agenda that brought in a fix. The issue will live for years.

We are no longer arguing this issue from a point of principle, on doing what is right. (Which was actually the powerful bottom line that resonated in Admiral Mike Mullen's testimony before the Senate:

“I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

No, this survey process moves the whole debate over to “what the people want,” territory, “what's the consensus?” We're seeking common ground. And, realistically, political cover, but for what conclusion?

Family Readiness is defined as to how prepared military families are to handle the challenges of military life.
 
32. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. Would repeal affect your family readiness?
• Yes, it would improve my family readiness
• Yes, it would reduce my family readiness
• No, it would have no effect on my family readiness
• Don't know

I just find this question laughable in its vagueness and lack of meaning.

And of course, it's sad a major civil right battle will be waged, possibly won or lost by whether someone's opinion of how it affects their “family readiness,” whatever that means.

I wish our Commander in Chief would listen to the Commander in Chief of January 2010:

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.

I'm sorry. You don't get to claim the principled high ground in a televised speech for applause of a nation and then walk it back by following up and asking 550,000 other people “What do you think is the right thing to do? And you? And you? And you?”

Just do the right thing. Lead.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Family Readiness Focus of Pentagon Military Spouse DADT Survey

Dadat

The Pentagon has sent out the second part to its military survey on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", this time to approximately 150,000 military spouses, and it shows much of the same insensitivity that the first survey did.

The survey, according to Politico, was accompanied by a letter from Defense Sec'y Robert Gates, which read:

"“As you know, in his State of the Union address this year, President Obama called upon the Congress to repeal the law commonly known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Following that, I directed the Department of Defense to consider how to best implement a repeal of this law should that occur. This survey is part of that effort. Your responses to this survey will help us assess the impact of a change in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law and policy on family readiness and recruiting and retention.”  

Servicemembers United has posted the survey.

Said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United, regarding the survey:

"This survey of military spouses contains many of the same insulting and derogatory assumptions and insinuations about gays and lesbians that ran throughout the last survey. Answer choices suggest things like the Defense Department possibly distributing flyers in military neighborhoods if, as they say, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is repealed and that the 'readiness' of military families might somehow be impacted. Again we stress that neither the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nor anyone else would ever stand for such insulting questions being asked about any other minority group in the military in this day and age. The Pentagon's senior leadership should seriously consider Servicemembers United's offer to meet with them in person to talk about the insensitivity of these surveys and how the poor handling of these surveys might negatively impact implementation."


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