Karen Celestino-Horseman

When Love is Not Enough

Filed By Karen Celestino-Horseman | August 06, 2007 1:43 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: Brett Conrad, homophobic behavior, marriage, Patrick Atkins, rule of law

You can also read more about this case in today's Indy Star and on The Bilerico Project here, here and here.

"I want you all to know that Brett is my best friend in the whole world and I love him more than life itself. I beg all of you to reach out to him with the same love you have for me, he is extremely special and once you know him you will understand why I love him so much. Trust me, God loves us all so very much, and I know he approves of the love that Brett and I have shared for over 20 years." -- Letter of Patrick Atkins to his family, 2000

Patrick Atkins and Brett Conrad met in 1978 and remained together until fate and Patrick's family separated the life partners.

While on a business trip in 2005, Patrick suffered an aneurysm and then a stroke. Hospitalized in Atlanta, Georgia, Brett went to be with Patrick; however, to say that Brett's presence at the hospital was displeasing to Patrick's mother, Jeanne Atkins (as in Atkins Elegant Desserts and Atkins Cheesecake) is an understatement. According to the opinion issued by the Indiana Appellate Court:

Patrick's family, however, has steadfastly refused to accept their son's lifestyle. Jeanne believes that homosexuality is a grievous sin and that Brett and his relatives are "sinners" and are "evil" for accepting Brett and Patrick's relationship. She testified that no amount of evidence could convince her that Patrick and Brett were happy together or that they had a positive and beneficial relationship.
...
Patrick's brother testified that Brett's mere presence in the hospital was "hurting" Jeanne and offending her religions beliefs. Jeanne told Brett that if Patrick was going to return to his life with Brett after recovering from the stroke, she would prefer that he not recover at all.

As the family did not want to see Brett, Brett was reduced to visiting Patrick for only 15 minutes, after visiting hours had ended. A sign was posted at the ICU that limited Patrick's visitors to "immediate family and clergy only" but compassionate hospital staff continued to allow Brett to visit Patrick outside of regular visiting hours.

When Patrick was removed to a nursing home in Carmel, Indiana, Brett again was required to visit Patrick after regular visiting hours so as to avoid being seen by Patrick's family. Patrick was ultimately moved into his parents' home. Armed with complete control of the situation, the Atkins refused to allow Brett to visit Patrick and even refused to allow Brett to talk with Patrick on the telephone.

In June 2005, Brett filed an action in the Hamilton Superior Court, asking that he be appointed guardian of Patrick's person. At the trial, "the Atkinses acknowledged that it was 'probably true' that if the trial court did not order them to allow visitation between Patrick and Brett, they would not allow any contact between the life partners." Judge Stephen Nation ultimately appointed the Atkins as Patrick's guardians and denied Brett's request for visitation and telephonic contact with Patrick. On the issue of visitation, the Indiana Appellate Court reversed.

In addition to the issues regarding who would act as guardian of Patrick, there were also property issues. Judge Nation gave the right to maintain the jointly held home to the Atkins and also gave them the right to sell the home. An investment account and a checking account were both held only in the name of Patrick although both partners had contributed to the account. Judge Nation awarded Brett one-third of the checking account and none of the investment account. Finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court, the Indiana Appellate Court affirmed the decision.

The 2-1 decision by Chief Judge Baker and Judge Robb of the Indiana Appellate Court is compassionate and worth reading. As Chief Judge Baker observed:

We are confronted here with the heartbreaking facture of a family. Brett and Patrick have spent twenty-five years together as life partners - longer than Patrick lived at home with his parents - and their future life together has been destroyed by Patrick's medical condition and by the Atkinses' unwillingness to accept their son's lifestyle.

The guardian-ad-litem appointed to act on behalf of Patrick observed that it was "evident that Patrick loves Brett very much and it is evident that Brett loves Patrick." Unfortunately, in this instance, without legal rights, all the love in the world cannot make the outcome of this situation as it should have been, had Brett and Patrick had control of things.

Nothing can change the tragedy of a mother who would rather not see her son recover than for him to be gay. The selfishness of such "motherly" love - if it can be called love - is incomprehensible. If Patrick Atkins ever recovers to the point that he understands what his mother and father have done to Patrick and to his life partner Brett, then Jeanne Atkins had better pray that her son is capable of far more compassion than she has displayed towards her son and Brett.

In the meantime, until the state legislature consents to recognizing the establishment of legal rights between same sex partners, please encourage your same sex friends to protect themselves. Persons not granted the legal right to marry their life partner, must take other steps to ensure that they and their loved one are protected. If Patrick had executed a durable power of attorney that provided for Brett to be considered as guardian over Patrick's person, then the whole situation likely would have been avoided. The same document could have designated Brett as the person charged with making all health care decisions on behalf of Patrick while Patrick was hospitalized.

I also hope that you will share this story with your friends and encourage them to avoid purchasing Atkins' products. Also, don't forget to let your grocer and favorite restaurants know that you do not want to spend your dollars where Atkins' products are offered. Maybe a reduction in profits will help Jeanne Atkins learn a bit of compassion.


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Leland Frances | August 6, 2007 2:36 PM

Thank you for this information. THIS is a perfect opportunity to document to Hoosiers why same gender relationships need legal protection. Research shows that such concrete examples persuade [those who are capable of being persuaded] better than generic appeals to fairness and equality.

I urge local groups to pool their resources to place full-page ads in Indiana's major newspapers about this case, and similar ones. If they do not have the money, this is just the kind of localized advocacy and education, beyond the Beltway, beyond preaching to the choir, that HRC's huge financial reserves should be used for.

Do we know if Atkins sells to local restaurants? I'd like to know that I won't be eating their product unknowingly. Would love to have list of their clients.

Lynn David | August 7, 2007 5:51 AM

This is just plain heartbreaking.

I would like a list of the companies that carry their products, especially across the country. That would be useful to grass-roots organizing.

We're currently looking for a list of local and national companies that carry the Atkins line of desserts. We'll have other posts with the information soon.

chandler in hollywood | August 7, 2007 11:36 AM

I have always wondered if a couple who live in a state that does not recognize gay relationships could go to court, as adults, and terminate parental rights?

Unfortunately, you can have durable power of attorney documents and living wills AND still not be protected. There have been cases in which courts have still granted power of attorney or guardianship to families over lovers, even with these legal protections. Not to mention the cost of getting all these documents...straight couples need only spend a fraction of the amount on a marriage license.

Leland Frances | August 7, 2007 2:18 PM

Isn't it time for LGBT Hoosiers who care to do more than weep and moan amongst themselves about the Conrad/Atkins case to both GIVE BACK some of the sadistic Mrs. Atkins' generated pain TO HER—— AS WELL AS further pubilicize this case as the perfect example of why legal protection for same gender couples is both moral and necessary.

She has a cheesecake + store at:

11852 Allisonville Rd
Fishers, Indiana
Store Hours
Mon, Fri, Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Tues, Wed, Thur 10 am to 7 PM
Closed Sunday

The weatherman is predicting some great public demonstration weather this Saturday. If I still lived there I would luv to join you all in a picket of her store. Look forward to hearing about it on Bilerico and in the Star.

I'd love to participate in a demonstration outside of their store but live in CA. If you go to their website they have email addresses listed for all top personal. Anyone know how to set up an email petition to sign and send to them?

Jeanne Atkins
President/Founder

Bob Barry
VP of Sales & Marketing
bbarry@atkins-intl-foods.com

Lisa Atkins-Milner
National Accounts Manager
latkins@atkins-intl-foods.com

Rad Thoman
Regional Manager
RThoman@atkins-intl-foods.com
Coverage: AZ, CA, CO, KS, MO, NV, NM,
OK, TX, UT, WA, WV

Randy Strand
Regional Manager
rstrand@atkins-intl-foods.com
Coverage: AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, TN Puerto
Rico, The Antilles

Tim Peters
Regional Manager
TPeters@atkins-intl-foods.com
Coverage: ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MT,
NE, OH, OR, PA, SD, WI, WY

Laura Atkins-Strand
Regional Manager
lauraatkins@atkins-intl-foods.com
Coverage: CT, DE, District of Columbia, ME,
MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, RI, SC, VT,
VA

Wayne Barefoot
Canadian National Manager
WBarefoot@atkins-intl-foods.com
Coverage: Canada


Here's the general email:

latkins@atkins-intl-foods.com

Freddie Borders | August 8, 2007 12:24 PM

If I could be at the march at their main store this weekend I would. I have contacted CNN.com Washington Post, NY Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Bay Area Reporter about this travesty. Something has to be done about this matter. We all need to be at this march !!! I live in Houston and can not attend. I use to live in Indianapolis and I know how bad it can be for the LGBTQ community!!!!!

ac_orlando | August 8, 2007 8:54 PM

You can reach Jeanne directly at:
800-887-8808 ext 101

And she'll even pay for the call.

Does any one have an address for the factory in Noblesville? There is a retail shop in Fishers. 11852 Allisonville Rd Fishers IN 46038.

When you go out to eat, before you order, ask what brand cheese cake and desserts they sell. If they sell Atkins, get up, walk out. Then post the name of the place.

Jack Hemsworth | January 21, 2008 7:27 AM

In the late 80's Pat Atkins' recruited me from Sara Lee Corp. to become the frist Regional Sales Rep. out of Ohio. I developed the private label distribution deal with Sysco and Sexton. Pat was the President and I was his paid mentor, and while we travaled for 2 years giving presentaions, he unveiled his love-hate relationship with his mother, who, "moved him away from a highschool girlfriend his senior year". She was closeting his homosexuality even though he was living with his "college roomate". I still had no clue Pat was gay even though a number of times while intoxicated he tried to have strange converasations with me...of course hindsight being 20/20 I should have known...but I thought I was his older business/spiritual mentor...and I had concluded he had this problem with his mom, not "women". Two years into the position with Atkins..Pat and I were nolonger riding with each other, the success of the Sysco and Sexton private labels had Pat and I flying across the country training Reps and giving presentations. One night he called my house late from Boston late and my wife of 15 years and 5 children, told me my boss called and wanted to talk ..and it was late and he was drunk. When I called him the first thing he said was " I miss you"...I flashed internally realizing I had missed all the gay common's from Pat and "now" all that I had sacrificed eas in jepardy...The next morning i called Atkins plant in Noblesvelle and confronted the family...I said I will not travel and share hotel rooms with Pat and that I would take Ohio and surrounding states..and not travel nationally anymore....Pat called me back on Monday and spoke to me for the first time in a "flaming' voice and siaid that his family would take care of me. I filled a Federal discrimnation suit in Columbus, Ohio for Sexual harrassment and religious discrimination, I would have been one of the 1st reverse discrimination cases against a gay in the work place..but because I was only 1 employee from the state of Ohio that the Federal Government could not represent me because there need to be 3 employees, before the federal government was legally able to. I filled then a Workers Comp case that Mr and Mrs. Atkins drove to Ohio to defeat me. I the Joan Rivers Show trying to expose the reverse injustice...Pat refused or his family refused him to come...finally 1 year later under the stress of all the years building Atkin' Desserts I was divorced and my family in ruin...so much for my relationship with the Atkins family.

Jack hemsworth | December 13, 2009 1:48 PM

I noticed...not one comment after my blog...
here is my update
The real victim in the anti-Gay position of Jean Atkins has been overlooked...My name is Jack Hemsworth...I was the first Sales rep hired by Atkins Elegant Desserts. I developed the national expansion of the dessert line from Ohio...Jean already had Pat closeted when he recruited me away from Sara Lee Corporation...her paranoia forced him with me on presentations around the country...I just thought he was such a blacksheep for some reason he just needed to take all the credit for my successes to his mother...I played along and thought I was helping him work out "hating mother issues"...As the company grew Pat still was not happy with himself or seemingly me...I blamed it on the dysfunction of a family run by an uptight relgious "NUT"...I didn't know what torture Pat was going thru...because we had become friends in the course of this work...even though on a number of occasions after Pat got drunk he would say things to me that went over my head...I would say..."no Pat I don't think your some fat homosexual"...I just thought he was putting himself down in a self-deprecating way. After 2 1/2 years of building the national private label deal I struck with Sysco Corporation, Houston, TX...I was flying from state to state training Sysco reps...and Pat calls my wife of 15 years and 5 children late in the early morning hours drunk...when I got home and called Pat...he starts the conversation off with...I miss you...in a strange drunk voice. All of the years of dedication to this company flashed before me...I knew in that moment what Pat's problem with me was...no matter how much success I brought to the Atkins family business...I was in the Karma with this sadistic matriarchical driven family...and Jean was to blame on many levels....when I called the following day to tell the Family...older and younger brother of Pat...that I was not riding with or sharing rooms with Pat and that I would give up the National Sales Rep position for Ohio and surrounding states...Pat got on the phone and for the frist time put on his "Flaming voice" that I had never heard before...He said "my Family will take care of you"...that was a threat not a goodwill promise for all my efforts...Jean fired me and harangued Pat about the legal jeopardy he had put the company in...I filled a Federal Sexual Harassment lawsuit and later found out that the Federal statutes required 3 employees from my the Sate of Ohio...therefore my suit could not go forward...with five kids to feed...I filed for worker's comp and Jean and her Husband drove to Southeast Ohio to beat me on that too...what wonderful people...now that I see they sold the business...probably because of the Gay-boycott and the community disdain for Jean Atkins self-rightous indignation...Karma is a bitch just like Jean Atkins...thank you Atkins family for all the pain you have brought into your world...you did your part to give me and mine.
Call Me Pat...you know what goes around comes around.
Jack Hemsworth