French kisses Iowa vote; we think anti-gay side using too much tongue

The Alliance Defense Fund’s David French is using the Iowa judicial retention vote to question whether same-sex marriage is actually inevitable:

I don’t have my head in the sand. I see the poll data indicating that young people increasingly support same-sex marriage, but I also believe that much of that support is soft — dependent on the unique peer pressures and ideological environment on college campuses. Once students emerge into the “real world” will they be so willing to further experiment with an institution already so damaged by no-fault divorce and cohabitation? We shall see.

But until then, can we please hold off on the “inevitable” talk until same-sex marriage can actually win elections?

If Same-Sex Marriage is Allegedly Inevitable . . . [Speak Up blog]

But here’s the thing: The Iowa judge vote was a battle between one hyper-motivated, highly-funded, out-of-state-supported coalition solely focused on the single issue of same-sex marriage vs. everyone else in the state. That hyper-motivated coalition told supporters that they had to cast a non-retention vote to send a message and/or appease god. They told supporters that this was the most important vote in Iowa, if not the nation. Meanwhile, the ragtag “everyone else” coalition did not have one unifying message, since it included marriage equality supporters who supported the judges, marriage equality supporters who opposed retention for other reasons, indifferent voters, apathetic voters, gay marriage non-supporters who weren’t involved with the “Iowa For Freedom” campaign (and therefore either retained or not for a myriad of other reasons), people who forgot to turn their ballot over, people who didn’t give a damn enough to vote on retention, young voters who always turn out at disproportionately low rates (esp. in midterm elections), etc. etc. So of course the deck was stacked towards non-retention! This site, which covered the IFF campaign with the finest of fine tooth combs, felt that way from the very beginning.

The retention vote was only a same-sex marriage test for the anti-LGBT crowd that turned it into one! In a perfect Iowa, citizens of any political stripe or sexual orientation would have been free to follow their own minds and do their own research into the judges’ full records, then cast whatever vote was on their conscience for whatever reason. The judge vote, by its very design, should not have been politicized in any way. There certainly shouldn’t have been a national takeaway about whether or not gay Americans will ever be free to resume their lives from the pause they’ve had to place on it in order to fight this needless marriage battle. But the anti-gay crowd, ever in search of a vindictive “harumph!” against equality and the supposed “judicial activism” that decides in its favor, turned Streit/Baker/Ternus’ careers into a lopsided us vs. them game. We only had to play along because of their own choice to roll the discriminatory dice.

The truly remarkable thing to this writer’s eyes: That people like David French keep coming out and fully admitting that they wanted this to be a de facto referendum on same-sex marriage. At first these kids were more coy about it, seemingly realizing that the concept was anti-intellectual and anti-judicious. But now they seem to fully embrace it. Perhaps a majority of Americans will go along with this bizarrely revelatory ride, offering up a “right on!” to this undeniably shortsighted misuse of one state’s retention system — stranger things have happened. But I know if I were politically consulting their side, I’d advise toning down the out-of-state gloating that’s been de rigueur in the “protect marriage” movement since Wednesday morning.

Though the beauty part: Since I’m instead working to educate and embolden the team that values judicial fairness, equal protection, due process, intellectual assessment of careers rather than solitary decisions, church/state separation, and state votes that are less like games of Moral Monopoly and more like exercises in moving the jurisdiction along its civil course, I can I come out and say: Keep talking, judge-ousters! After all, an obfuscator’s overplayed hand often has a way of speeding up inevitability’s predestined arrival.




Good As You

—  admin

Dan Choi responds to using the ‘P’ word

It’s not often that we get to talk about p*ssy, huh? In my post about the expansive, no-holds-barred profile of Dan Choi by Steven Thrasher in the current Village Voice, I cited this paragraph:

“Harry Reid is a pussy,” Choi angrily said after the failed vote in the Senate last month, vowing to speak out about the Democratic leader, “and he’ll be bleeding once a month.”

I left it hanging out there without any comment on my part, save “That won’t get him a job as a Beltway mouthpiece, lol.” It wasn’t that I didn’t have an opinion; I didn’t want to lead the conversation in any particular direction. However, it was no surprise that the maelstrom of responses (in the comments, my inbox, and on Twitter), decided to take on the misogyny embedded in Dan’s choice of words.

Obviously Dan, saw many of them and he responded in the blunt fashion that I would have expected from him:

Go ahead: call me a ‘misogynist.’ I’m still pro-choice, pro-ERA. I also happen to think @HarryReid is a #DADT #FAIL.

I appreciate your criticism; I apologize for using the slur, and resolve to educate others in any capacity I’m afforded in the future.

What do I think about the whole dustup? It’s good to have the conversation about misogyny within the community and how it manifests itself. But if you read the entire Village Voice piece, which digs a lot deeper into Dan’s foibles, his earnestness, and off-the-cuff manner, I was not surprised that a military guy would “go there” – it’s part of the military culture, for good or ill and there it was in black and white. It actually didn’t offend me as I read the article; it was contextually right in line with Dan’s lack of inner politically correct censor at times.

I’m not going to defend a military culture that denigrates women as part of daily conversation (not to mention institutionalized slaps on the wrist for sexual assaults by men against their female service member colleagues). The Voice profile is enlightening precisely because our heroes are flawed, and all too human. The last time I checked, we all have the capacity to learn from mistakes; those in the public eye don’t have the latitude to go private when they screw up. Dan did say something boneheaded. misguided – and he apologized.

So the misogyny discussion is important, one of those teachable moments, but it does also raise the question of how often are our own chosen words in private that reflect bias against women, people of different ethnicities, religions, etc.? How often do we think about those choices, and if they are something you wouldn’t say in public, examine why the ease in saying them privately? Good essential topic, but way far astray than the impression I was left with about Dan Choi, his activism and commitment to the movement after reading the entire Village Voice piece.

For two completely different takes on Dan:

* Rachel K at Autostraddle: Dan Choi is People

* Derek’s Big Fat Democratic Adventure: Dan Choi: Media Bully – Or It Doesn’t Get Better
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Christine O’Donnell Confesses To Using Campaign Money For Personal Expenses

Teabagger loon, “ex-gay” advocate, and not-a-witch Christine O’Donnell has admitted that she’s been illegally using campaign donations to pay her rent.

[O'Donnell] acknowledges using campaign money to pay part of the rent on her current town house. Her attorney maintains someone with the Federal Election Commission approved the arrangement, although the commission’s rules say candidates can’t use campaign money for their mortgage or rent “even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign.”

The watchdog group Citizens For Ethics in Washington responds: “Ms. O’Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

NOM is Using Children as Political Pawns… Again

We got an update on a State Assembly race in California from Chris Moore, the President of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento who formerly served as Political Director for Equality California.

This isn’t just any race. One of the candidates is the notoriously homophobic Andrew Pugno, of Prop. 8 infamy. He’s running against Richard Pan, a pediatrician, who has spent his career trying to improve health care for kids.

Chris reports that NOM has weighed into this race by exploiting children, which is one of the most insidious ploys. Here’s the report:

The folks behind the divisive and hurtful Yes on Proposition 8 T.V. ads just couldn’t help themselves — The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is once again using children as political pawns, but this time in an attempt to elect one of their own, Andrew Pugno, to the California State Assembly by smearing his pro-equality challenger Dr. Richard Pan. The two are facing off in a hotly contested race for Assembly District 5 in the Sacramento region.

Pugno is the golden boy of the nation-wide anti marriage equality effort. His career sets him apart from your standard anti marriage equality activists and includes such highlights as: Chief of Staff to the notoriously homophobic late Senator Pete Knight, Co-Author of Proposition 8, and lead attorney for the Yes on 8 Campaign. It is no surprise that NOM is spending big to have their go-to California political operative elected to the Assembly.

NOM has spent over 2,000 to air a new television ad in which they warn that Pugno’s opponent, Richard Pan, will support the teaching of gay marriage to 2nd graders. See the ad here.

It is fairly ironic that NOM is divisively using children as political pawns in an effort to smear Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician that has focused his career on building community partnerships to increase children’s health coverage. Dr. Pan co-founded the Healthy Kids Healthy Future program, which secured health, dental and vision coverage for over 65,000 children in the Sacramento region.

Assembly District 5 was drawn as a Republican district in 2000 but has been trending more and more Democratic. The polling for the race shows that Dr. Pan will win as long as his campaign can get the message out about Pugno’s extremist past. In addition to Pugno’s anti-gay past, he has also worked to eliminate all abortions, even in the case of incest and rape.

To learn more about this race and Andrew Pugno’s extreme past, visit www.stopandrewpugno.com.

To help Dr. Richard Pan. His website is here




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Arkansas Republicans Go After HIV/AIDS Prevention Using Gay Baiting Language

It never ends.  It just gets worse and worse with these clowns.  Arkansas Republicans in the state legislature have decided to go after a program designed to reduce the spread of STDs like HIV among minorities and the LGBT community, specifically by attacking a state program that promotes condom usage and HIV testing among gay black man.  What's more, they're using some pretty foul gay-baiting tactics to do so.

The charge is a simple one.  The group, a non-profit called “Brothah's and Sistah's Inc.” got k from the state to test out new methods for fighting HIV/AIDS in minority communities.  Specifically, the group set up shop in a gay club geared towards African American gay men, and handed out condoms and did HIV tests.  At issue is whether or not the group handled ,000 of the k it recieved appropriately.  Fair enough.

However, Arkansas Republicans couldn't stop there.  According to sources, three members (more on them later) went beyond this.  One wondered aloud whether or not there were enough gay black men to be concerned about the project…another took the position that people engaged in “risky behavior” (being gay) should just deal with the consequences of their actions.  Republicans are already trying to turn this into a political issue, using gay-baiting language to smear Democrats.  Check the title of a recent blog post by a prominent Arkansas Republican blogger:

State Grant for Distributing Condoms at Gay Bar Stirs Controversy in Committee

All ready, Republican trolls are trying to tie this to state senator Joyce Elliott, a candidate for Congress in Arkansas and an LGBT ally because, get this, she's the state senator of the district where the gay club was located…I shit you not.

Republicans are determined to make an issue of this.  Arkansas progressive activists plan to do the same, but not the way the Republicans are hoping…stay tuned.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

In Maj. Witt’s upcoming DADT trial using the ‘Witt Standard,’ ‘facts are not on the government’s side’

Excellent editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with two key points: 1) the U.S. Department of Justice won’t be able to meet the “Witt standard” in the upcoming DADT trial of Major Margaret Witt — and it couldn’t meet that standard against Victor Fehrenbach and 2) DADT has to end.

On Witt:

A federal judge, in a trial set to begin Sept. 13, will apply a new standard to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This time, the burden will be on the military to prove not that Witt is a lesbian – her sexual orientation is not in dispute – but that her homosexuality is harmful to her unit’s cohesiveness.

It will be the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Obama administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal the 9th’s decision to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for the trial in U.S. District Court next month.

The facts are not on the government’s side: More than a dozen of Witt’s colleagues have given sworn declaration objecting to her dismissal; one was so angry that he refused to re-enlist.

Should the Witt standard blunt the don’t ask, don’t tell policy as expected, it could prove a boon to gay service members who have been waiting on Congress – to date, in vain.

Waiting in vain for Congress — and the President.

The conclusion:

But the Witt standard is a stopgap measure and no more. It provides limited relief since it applies only to cases in Western states that make up the Ninth Circuit. And it isn’t preventing people like Jonathan Hopkins of Morton – a West Point graduate who led three combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – from having to leave careers they love.

Don’t ask, don’t tell needs to go, and it’s up to the Senate to finish the job when it returns next month.

The Senate needs to finish the Defense bill in September and get it to conference ASAP. Delay hurts the chances for passing the compromise bill this year. Opponents of DADT repeal know that and will do everything possible to cause problems. Our allies, starting with the President, have to make sure that nothing interferes with the process of getting the compromise DADT bill signed into law..




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin

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