There's so much LGBTQ analysis of this news that my head is spinning. People are celebrating, people are leery, people don't know what's going to happen.
Specter switched parties. If Al Franken is seated, it gives the Democrats a filibuster proof majority (60). Good stuff can happen. Good stuff for LGBTQ persons might happen.
Specter isn't going to necessarily be a champion of LGBTQ legislation. Here's his record per the HRC. He rates a 67 on the HRC Congressional Scorecard. In 2004, his rating was 50. His vote played a part in getting the Federal Marriage Amendment to the floor. His stance on the Employee Free Choice Act is deplorable (he's opposed and reiterated that yesterday in his announcement).
So it is a mixed bag at best. Still, those of us in this region of Pennsylvania aren't unfamiliar with the need to work with socially conservative Democrats to advance the gay agenda. Specter's helps with the balance of power, but it signifies a need to redouble the LGBTQ influence in the Democrat party. I think this is going to be a real challenge for the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Liberty City Stonewall Democrats — keeping open channels with the mainstream party, but holding true to full equality.
I attended a Democratic event this weekend, sponsored by the Vice-President of Steel City. Those in attendance were Patrick Dowd, Kevin McCarthy, Hugh McGough, Joe Williams and Barbara Ernsberger. Check out the Steel City slate of endorsed Democrats.
The story that struck me the most? Joe Williams' story about his meeting for the ACDC endorsement. Rather than question him on issues or his record, they asked him how to improve relations with the African-American community. Clearly racism is alive and well in the ACDC, even if it is embedded in a cloak of concern about diversity.
Joe Williams has been at every Steel City event I've attended in recent memory. He has earned our support.
The other story is the tale of Barbara Ernsberger who is running for the Commonwealth Court. She's an attorney that has taken on multiple corporations in court. She had to seek the endorsement before a group of lawyers she's opposed in court. I may be naive, but that seems highly unfair. I'm sure it is part of the local Democratic Machine, but it seems there should be some modicum of impartiality. Anyone who challenges Wal-Mart has a lot of cred in my opinion.
So what happens after the primary when the ACDC puts pressure on Steel City to fall in line with the party endorsement? True, Luke did announce the impending formation of the LGBT Advisory Council. Does that warrant an endorsement? IMHO, it depends on the composition of the council. I know of one incredibly qualified and respected by County leaders person who was not invited. So I guess I'll just wait and see if its business as usual in terms of Mayoral advisors or a real change we can believe in. Steel City may feel otherwise, but I'm curious how much power the membership has over the endorsement for the General Election.
Getting back to Specter, I think the debate over meaning for the LGBTQ community reflects the general debate in the Democrat Party here in SW Pennsylvania. The answer is always going to be personal contact with real, live LGBTQ persons and families. Understanding our issues in the context of our lives is critical to achieve action. This news simply adds another person to that list.