I was hesitant to share this, lest I be accused of navel-gazing, but above is a photo of a plaque and card I received this week from gay AT&T employee Bryan Dickenson of Garland, thanking me for reporting on his struggle to get FMLA leave from the company so he could care for his ailing partner of 30 years, Bill Sugg. Bryan is at home with Bill now, having been granted discretionary leave. Dallas-based AT&T enacted a new policy granting FMLA-equivalent leave to same-sex partners, regardless of whether their relationship is recognized by the state in which they live. However, because Dickenson is a member of union, he must wait for the new policy to be approved by his labor representatives. In the meantime, he’s been granted discretionary leave so he can care for Sugg, who’s undergoing physical therapy and remains on a feeding tube, but is gradually improving.
Of course, the real credit for this victory goes to Rob Wiley, Dickenson’s attorney, who had the foresight to contact us when his other efforts failed; to the countless advocates across the country who spoke up in response to my original story; to Dickenson and Sugg, who sacrificed their privacy to fight for equal benefits; and, yes, even to AT&T for responding swiftly and favorably.
Still, I felt compelled to post this here and say that in 10 years as a working journalist, I’ve never received anything quite like it from a source. And I can tell you that it means much more than any award from a press association. In a profession where you so frequently become the target of anger and blame (including for this story), it’s nice to know when you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives.
Thanks, Bryan and Bill.