8PM ET: PHB/Servicemembers United liveblog w/active duty Marine officer who took the DADT survey

Be there or be square, peeps. We’ve landed, with the help of Servicemembers United, an active duty Marine who had the “pleasure” of taking the biased, freep-able Pentagon study designed to get the “input” of service members regarding implementation of changes after DADT is repealed.

The Marine officer, “Gordon,” is a 16-year Marine field grade officer currently assigned within the greater DC Beltway. Alex Nicholson of SU says:

He’s a VERY opinionated striaght-talker (no pun intended), so it should be quite a lively chat this evening – feel free to ask him anything!! If you’re around a computer, please do join us. And for those with blogs, twitter accounts, and hoards of FB followers, please also consider promoting it to your loyal readers and fans.

This is a CoverItLive blog event, so you will be able to see it on the front page of the Blend once it begins, and there is a separate link to a standalone window with the liveblog:


Joining me in the chat room tonight with “Gordon” will be my project partners from SU:


Alex Nicholson, Executive Director; Jarrod Chlapowski, Co-Founder.

The infamous survey is below the fold.
The Pentagon commissioned Westat to do the survey, which was distributed to 400,000 active duty and reserve members of the armed forces. The survey is part of the Pentagon Working Group’s 10-month study of the potential impact of repeal of DADT on the force.

Servicemembers United had this reaction to the survey language when it was leaked:

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, today strongly condemned the biased and derogatory design of the long-awaited Defense Department survey on issues related to the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The survey, which was created and administered by the research firm Westat in conjunction with the Comprehensive Review Working Group, was sent out to 400,000 non-deployed active duty troops at a cost to taxpayers of .4 million.

While it remains safe for gay and lesbian troops to participate in this 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,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “Unfortunately, this expensive survey stokes the fires of homophobia by its very design and will only make the Pentagon’s responsibility to subdue homophobia as part of this inevitable policy change even harder. The Defense Department just shot itself in the foot by releasing such a flawed survey to 400,000 servicemembers, and it did so at an outrageous cost to taxpayers.”

Nicholson added, “Flawed aspects of the survey include the unnecessary use of terms that are known to be inflammatory and bias-inducing in social science research, such as the clinical term ‘homosexual;’ an overwhelming focus on the potential negative aspects of repeal and little or no inclusion of the potential positive aspects of repeal or the negative aspects of the current policy; the repeated and unusual suggestion that a co-worker or leader might need to ‘discuss’ appropriate behavior and conduct with gay and lesbian troops; and more.”


* DADT is Not Repealed Yet, Folks. No, Seriously.

* Blockbuster Disclosure: DOD Can’t Protect DADT Survey From being “Freeped”

* Pentagon Sustains Heavy Fire Over DADT Survey

* Servicemembers United petition: Refund our .4 million spent on the Pentagon’s survey
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Department Of Defense Explains The DADT Survey To Troops

From the official DOD YouTube channel. Anybody remember this old expression? “When you the Army wants your opinion, it’ll issue you one.” So much for that.

(Via – Good As You)

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Nate Silver on DADT survey: ‘entire parts of it are completely useless’

What Nate says:

The survey might or might not be biased — the bigger problem is that entire parts of it are completely useless.

In particular, given that the army that isn’t supposed to have any (openly) gay soldiers, the survey asks the troops to engage in an awful lot of speculation about the gay soldiers in their midst.

Of course, Nate says a lot more. He does a thorough job of explaining why. Definitely worth a read.

And, this just adds to the growing controversy about this survey. What the hell was DOD thinking?


—  John Wright

Servicemembers United: Refund Taxpayers For Insulting DADT Survey

Servicemembers United wants the feds to get back the .4M they paid for the DADT survey.

The Department of Defense just paid the research firm Westat the outrageous sum of .4 million to design and administer an email-based survey about the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. While its development was shrouded in secrecy for weeks, leaked copies of the final version recently began circulating. To everyone’s surprise, the survey, which went out to 400,000 service members, turned out to be laced with bias, inaccuracies, and derogatory assumptions and insinuations about gay and lesbian Americans. Demand that Westat and the Pentagon repay the American Taxpayer for this outrageous waste of .4 million!

Their petition is here.

Joe. My. God.

—  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

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