Registry Plans Update

According to the office of Councilman Bruce Kraus, the Domestic Partner Registry legislation will be signed by Luke with a swishy flair at Pride events over the weekend.  (I added the part about the swishy flair.  Kraus' staff were more professional). 

I love this.  Luke opposes civil unions, but somehow gets to be the Mayor of Gaysville over a very modest piece of legislation.  Meanwhile, his promise to appoint a LGBT liaison and an LGBT advisory committee remain unfulfilled.  He is the smartest Mayor ever for pulling this off and he doesn't have to move a single iota on any of these issues. Seriously. We should wait til he's posing with his homo buddies and then cover his car in HRC stickers.  Seriously. 

According to the City Personnel Dept, it could take up to 90 days for the Registry to be set up.  Once the procedures are in place, they will contact the 60 families already registered with the City and tell us where to show up to sign the official new registry application; everything transfers.  It will cost $25.00 to register.  I was assured they would get our transitions ironed out before opening up the door to other couples.  Which is only fair since we've been paying into the system itself for years.  Trailblazers.  🙂 

Still no word on how families who can't easily meet the established criteria can get help with the whole thing. I'm hoping a personal chat with Councilman Kraus will help our politicians remember that not every gay family in Pittsburgh is a middle class, two income, Starbucks patronizing, white family.  And not every gay family is going to come to PrideFest.  So once the hoopla is over, who helps those who need these benefits but cannot access them? 

I know a lot of PrideFest is about the hoopla and the smoochy-faces with the politicos and the donors and the mighty whites.  I get that.  It would be nice to be all grassrootsy and frolic in the sun and enjoy ourselves, but this is event is as much for the straight community to applaud themselves for being so gay-friendly as it is for gay folks to, well, continue to be gay like the other 364 days of the year.  Only with HRC stickers and petitions. 

I still plan to have fun.  I love festivals and there's music and booths and old friends.  There's Pride Cafe with Joey Murphy and Colelea.  There's the Dyke March on Saturday.  There's Joan Rivers.  There's Gab Bonesso's show at Club Cafe late, late Saturday night.  There's the people watching.  It is probably going to be a blast and I honestly do appreciate all of the efforts to produce the event. 

But you will never catch me writing a paragraph like this, courtesy of the man called Potter:

Ravenstahl's willingness to support it is at least as admirable. Ravenstahl has met with local GLBT groups in the past, but he's also a Catholic whose supporters tend to be more conservative than, say, the voters in Shields' East End district. Ravenstahl could easily have made a less principled move — and one more politically convenient — by allowing the bill to become law without his signature. Instead, he's bravely coming out in support of those who have, well, come out.

I prefer cynical Potter to dig up the truth.  Ravenstahl meets with gay supporters who give him campaign contributions.  Being brave would mean honoring his existing promises to our community.  Being brave would mean local LGBT advocates, including his supporters, holding him accountable for those promises.  Being brave would be assuring us that we won't lose our rights or our benefits if he pursues a merger with Allegheny County.  Being brave would mean taking an internal look to determine why only five (5) same sex couples are accessing domestic partner benefits. 

Just give us back Potter.  You can keep the bar owners and the Starbucks' lesbians.  We need our broody malcontented alternative editor. 

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  • Someone opined to me that Ravenstahl's decision to sign the legislation with great fanfare — as opposed to quietly allowing it to become law without his signature — is a sign that he is supremely confident in his reelection. Otherwise, he might feel he would need that social Catholic voter edge.
    Something to think about at the ceremony.

  • Great. He's struck the perfect balance between appeasing the Catholics and the queers while actually doing nothing. Maybe he really is smarter than I give him credit for being. Or maybe we are just too easily appeased …
    I personally believe that the Mayor really is anti-gay and a true catholic believer. It is the only explanation for being opposed to civil unions. Sources tell me that he is *not* on the agenda for the PrideFest politico lineup. I can't confirm it.

  • First, a correction: Ravenstahl WAS on hand for Pride events, and used the occasion to sign the registry legislation.
    Second, I have tremendous esteem for you, Sue, but I'm mystified by the assertion that Ravenstahl is “doing nothing” here. If this bill gets DP benefits into the hands of one more couple, if it makes just one more same-sex couple feel welcomed in the city, is it really the same as if nothing had happened?
    You raise good questions about the dearth of people currently signed up for the benefit. Perhaps we'll look into those questions — if Bram and his fellow Justice Bloggers don't get there first. In the meantime, though, I'd say a couple things in the vein of keeping things in perspective.
    First, it may be that just by passing this bill, the city has made it easier for employees to sign up for benefits, by codifying the procedure by which they do so. And as we reported in the paper, the registry may make it easier for PRIVATE-sector employers to offer benefits to employees. You won't necessarily be able to track increased enrollments at private companies … but experience in other cities suggests the registry may encourage more employers to offer the benefit.
    Second, Ravenstahl's predecessor was in office for the better part of a decade while the DP benefits were in effect. He had a lot more time to spend investigating such matters, but as far as I know, he didn't look into it either.
    I'm not trying to use Tom Murphy's poor example to set the bar low for Ravenstahl. I AM saying that it seems weird that — at the moment Ravenstahl does something that is a net positive for the glbt community — he gets blasted for failing to do something Murphy never bothered to try.
    As for the belief that Ravenstahl only signed the bill because he doesn't have to worry about his re-election, a few points. First, if he really doesn't face a serious challenger, I can think of MUCH worse things he could be do with his power than openly back this bill.
    Second, by the reasoning of Bram's anonymous pundit, Ravenstahl could have chosen to blow off the glbt folks just as easily. After all, if he's facing no challenger, he won't need THEIR votes next year either. And don't we all think that Ravenstahl has his eyes set for something beyond 2009? Assuming he does, it's hard to see how this move helps him in a political sense — it carries an (admittedly small) risk of alienating his conservative base, and it's not like the progressive set is suddenly going to support him just because he signed this bill.
    I'm not too interested in the horse-race dimensions of this, to be honest. But it seems to me that this gesture is at LEAST as likely to hurt Ravenstahl down the road as help him.
    It probably sounds like I'm defending Ravenstahl, which is a weird position for me to be in. Not long ago, after all, I compared him to Nixon. And rest assured that when he strays from the Righteous Path, I'll criticize him again. I'm still the brooding malcontent I was two weeks ago. But I disagree with you here, Sue … not so much because I think it's unfair to Ravenstahl, but because I think it's unfair to the cause I think we both share.
    It would be different if I, or those Starbucks lesbians, were overstating the impact of this measure. It would be different if they, or I, were satisfied by this reform and said, “that's all we need to do.” But I don't see that happening. (Quite the opposite, actually.) If anything, I think you're overstating the case when you say “nothing” took place here. Granted: It can be dangerous to overstate the accomplishment, because we risk becoming complacent. But I think there are also risks involved in MINIMIZING the accomplishment, because arguably, every step taken helps to build the movement, and the momentum, toward the ultimate goal.
    So yeah, I'm going to give credit where I think it's due. Here we are, living in the Latter Days of the American Empire … drowning in debt, CO2 emissions, and the rain-swollen waters of the Mississippi. In my nearly 40 years, I've seen so few victories for the causes I believe in … at this point, I'm going to celebrate what victories I find. I'm sorry we can't share in that as much as I had hoped (since as I said before, I have a great deal of regard for you). But I take some strange consolation in knowing that — sooner rather than later, probably — we'll stand in malcontented solidarity on some other outrage.
    — potter

  • Chris,
    Your comment was sent for modication because you posted anonymously (from the system's perspective). My blog guru turned on that feature to assist with me some unrelated spewing.
    Thank you for the compliments. I stand by my assertion that Ravenstahl is doing nothing. He signed legislation. He came to PrideFest and made a decent speech. Fine. But that doesn't begin to offset his opposition to civil unions or his failure to honor his promises on LGBT appointments, advisors and liaisons.
    Maybe from your vantage this looks like progress, Chris. But you aren't one of the five families signed up as domestic partners with the City, nor one of the 55 common law couples. Am I really supposed to applaud him for what — agreeing to formalize a process that many others fought to establish years ago under Administrations which you point out were not friendly? I'm not impressed. It isn't progress and it doesn't negate the damage Luke Ravenstahl has wrought on our community.
    From my vantage, it feels uncomfortable to see all the hullabaloo and have, IMHO, valid questions about the Mayor's promises to the LGBT community remain unanswered if not blatantly ignored by both the Mayor, his LGBT supporters and local LGBT advocates.
    You say that this isn't being overplayed and I pointedly disagree with you. *IF* the Mayor hadn't made promises of substance that he's failed to upheld, I might concede your point. But he did make those promises and his LGBT supporters are not even willing to acknowledge that slap in the face, what have we really gained?
    The new system is optional for City Employees and not a requirement to access domestic partner benefits, according to Kraus' office. I asked because it seems unfair to require me to pay $25 to register for something I've been receiving for the past two years. Kraus' staff person pointed out that a marriage license cost most than $25.00 which did not endear her to me. Especially since I had to pay for my affidavit two years ago and we have to pay income taxes on the health insurance benefits themselves.
    Ultimately, this is a good thing for the City. I applaud those who brought it forward and made it succeed, even while I ask them to be mindful of those who do not fit the socioeconomic stereotypes of the gay community. If the Mayor wants me to be a true believer (which I doubt he cares), he might use this to start a conversation about the city-county merger or some other issue which is going to have a much more significant impact.
    I guess we must agree to disagree on this one.

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