Consolidate? Save the Date! And Don’t Shop at Blumengarten Flowers!

Governor Rendell wants to consolidate PA's school districts from 500 to 100.  Now that's ambitious.  After last year's despicable behavior on the part of East Allegheny and West Mifflin residents when it came to absorbing the displaced students from the Duquesne High School, this could become a nasty mess real darn quickly.

Today's PG editors propose a new twist on this plan of consolidation — merging municipalities along the same lines as the school districts to realize the same savings from the recommended City-County merger.  It certainly makes sense from a fiscal point of view and mergers based on existing “school identities” could overcome the community identity based resistance. 

Still, the Lesbians want to point to one small but critical objection.  Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has not committed to ensuring that the civil protections and domestic partnership benefits available to City residents and City employees would be preserved in a City-County merger.  This is the question I submitted for the Town Hall Forum, a question that remains unanswered 28 days after I was promised a response in the “coming days” which I guess is sort of Biblical talk rather than a measurable sense of accountability on the part of an elected official. I digress.

Dan Onorato has not made a public commitment to support the Allegheny County HRC ordinance which would provide civil protections for LGBT residents, among others, in Allegheny County.  Dan Onorato has publicly resisted extending domestic partnership benefits, hiding behind the idea that somehow the County  budget cannot absorb the onslaught of homosexuals and their families emerging from the ranks of County employees.  Sadly, the ordinance is languishing in the Government Committee with no plans to bring it up for a vote because some of our County elected officials are capitulating to fear and hate, not to mention misinformation spread by the good Christians of Allegheny County.

Particular note:  the owner of Blumengarten Flowers in the Strip District testified that while he is willing to hire homosexuals, he does not want us renting a room in his house or having unsupervised contact with his children.  Keep this in mind when you make your Valentine's Day florist selections.

MR. LUDWIG:  My name is Jim Ludwig, 2938 Greenfield Road in Glenshaw.  I have a business in the Strip District.  I'd like to do something unusual and thank Anna and John Michael and the last person for testifying because I was unaware of some of the problems that may have existed in some instances.  As an employer, I don't look at sexual orientation when I want to hire someone.  There are lots — I'm a florist.  There are lots of gays in my line of business.  I'm interested in how people conduct themselves, if they're honest and dependable, if they have the skills to do the job.  And I think that's the case for most employers.  If I had an apartment building, I wouldn't be looking at sexual orientation for who I rent to.  But now what I'm worried about is reverse discrimination.  What now — I'm a homeowner.  I have an extra room that maybe I want to rent to someone.  I have kids.  Should I have the right to decide who I'm going to rent that — based on a lot of different reasons?  One of them might be sexual orientation.

If I want to send my son to be a Boy Scout, don't I have the right to know that the troop leader is not going to be a homosexual?  If I want to send my daughter to be mentored in a Sunday School, don't I have the right to know that that teacher is not a homosexual?  So in general, I'd certainly — these instances that the people testified that they lost their jobs, it's absolutely wrong.  But there are instances that it makes a difference, and I'm worried about reverse discrimination.  I'm asking if we're looking at this law because we're trying to solve a problem or we're looking at this law that may create a lot of problems. 

Fair laws should rise above ignorance illustrated in these comments.  This is exactly the same ignorance the residents started screaming about when a bunch of high school kids from Duquesne needed a place to get the education so critical to their future success.  At last count, West Mifflin has not sunk into the bowels of hell or driven away all the white people because of horrible tax rates. 

This illustrates the future and why we must continue to push for the county ordinance AND share our attention on the statewide law proposed by Representative Dan Frankel to expand the PA Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  YOU have a chance to literally jump on the bus as local members of the Value All Families coalition are planning a trip to Harrisburg on Tuesday, March 17 for a rally in Harrisburg on this very issue. 

You'll leave Pgh at 8 AM and return around 8 PM.  Children are welcome (check into the car seat issue if necessary).  I'll post more details as they become available, but save the date.  This is worth taking a PTO day or flexing your work schedule.  The PG editorial gives us a glimpse of the future, albeit one into which most Allegheny Countians and Pennsylvanians will be dragged kicking and screaming. We cannot miss this window of opportunity to put our protections in place NOW. 

March 17.   Save the date.

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