As we discussed earlier in the week, plans are underway for LGBT “supporters of Luke” to get together with him over lunch to discuss LGBT issues. A few key LGBT designated leaders have been invited. This was confirmed by local LGBT business owner and chair of the Delta Foundation, Gary Van Horn, in the comments section of our blog.
Also confirmed in the comments: this is a private event and not open to the media.
What I've recently discovered is that those attending the private lunch to discuss LGBT issues are allegedly being required to make a campaign contribution to the Luke Ravenstahl war chest.
Wow. I'm sure this goes on all the time. Money buys you access. Is it a sign of the times that gay money is worth courting? Should we care about a secret meeting?
Well, yes. And here is why. This will be the second private opportunity for dialogue on LGBT issues between the Mayor and actual LGBT people. The first was held on election eve after he infamously announced live on WQED that he was opposed to civil unions. That meeting, too, was top secret and did not result in the Mayor reversing his public stance on civil unions.
Publicly, the Mayor has had contact with the LGBT community. He's just adroitly sidestepped any type of public contact that involves dialogue. This includes the “Big Gay Chat” sponsored by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee last spring. Luke sent a surrogate.
Luke himself did attend PrideFest. With a police escort. He attended OUTrageous Bingo. He spent some time in a gay bar. None of these contacts allowed for any real dialogue between Luke and our community. He came, but he didn't listen. He didn't even know we had anything to say. Or maybe he just didn't care.
The community is not well-served by secret meetings and backroom negotiations. We deserve a Mayor that is willing to talk publicly about our issues and engage a cross section of the community, not just one particular interest. We deserve a Mayor who doesn't trade access for campaign contributions (allegedly).
If that is the price of admission to this luncheon, let us hope that those who represent us on boards and committees and commissions will think twice before attending. Have any of the previous private meetings and soirees moved Luke a single inch further along the line of gay tolerance? There is no evidence of that. No change on civil unions. No support for HB 1400. No promise to protect the civil liberties and domestic partner benefits in a City-County merger. No nothing.
The private meetings aren't working. At least, they aren't working for our community. They might be working for the campaign. We don't know because even the gay media is excluded (believe me, I've tried).
Make no mistake, gentle readers, we are WAY past the point at which attending PrideFest is newsworthy. There's no extra credit points for taking that risk. The Mayor's people should be aggressively courting connections with the LGBT community. What happened to plans for a LGBT liaison in the Mayor's office? Or the LGBT advisory committee?
So, the meeting. Gary thinks it is a worthwhile investment of his time and he's entitled to that opinion. He's also entitled to organize events to support candidates in whom he believes. However, I think that continuing to contribute our hard-earned monies to a candidate that hasn't done a single thing for our community is going to get us nowhere. We cannot allow Luke Ravenstahl to continue making promises to us — liaisons and committees, etc — with no consequences for his failure to act.
So, why not email your local LGBT leaders and ask if they plan to attend the Mayor's event and, if so, whether they are financially supporting his campaign? It would be interesting to identify LGBT leaders that publicly support a candidate opposed to civil unions. After all, we can get the campaign contribution information after the fact if the City Paper keeps up the database. It would just be nice to know in advance where people stand.
LGBT supporters of Luke, comment away …