Untitled by Kevin Acklin

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog for a trail blazing fourth year anniversary on the Pittsburgh blogosphere! I am humbled and truly honored to provide my perspective on Sue Kerr and her blog's dramatic impact on our community and our continued battle for greater equality.

Many of you may know me as the Independent candidate for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh who had the recent honor of standing up to lead this great City. One of the issues I championed during the election was the need to provide stronger leadership on issues of importance to the LGBT community, to make our City more just, open and inclusive.

As a fellow lifelong Pittsburgher and advocate for LGBT rights, I wonder where we would be in Pittsburgh without Sue Kerr and her lead on efforts to call attention to LGBT issues, which are often ignored by mainstream media outlets.

I first met Sue during our collective efforts to pass the historic anti-discrimination legislation on Allegheny County Council, sponsored by Councilwoman Amanda Green to extend equal protection to LGBT persons across the county. When asked to speak in favor of the ordinance, I was honored to do so. For those watching that debate, note that this was a similar ordinance to what Harvey Milk was advocating for on San Francisco City Council in 1978 and what ultimately cost him his life. Over 30 years later, we are still fighting these early battles for equality in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Sue's blog coverage of the events leading up to the vote were simply crucial to rallying support in favor of historic passage of the ordinance.

Let's be clear: the legal status quo regarding the treatment of LGBT people represents the last form of legalized discrimination in America. The laws currently on the books in many jurisdictions are simply unjust and represent blatant discrimination. Sue Kerr and other LGBT bloggers give a voice to the movement and provide a forum for open discussion on these matters that simply does not exist elsewhere. In that sense, they truly facilitate the spread of justice in our region and beyond.

And the pursuit of justice has dominated so many decisions in my life: from my decision to go to law school in the first place, to represent victims of domestic violence pro bono, to run for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, to stand with Sue and other friends in support of LGBT rights.

On top of that, there are so many LGBT people I know and love have suffered as a result of the unjust treatment under current law.

One of the happiest days of my life was when I stood with one of my best friends from college on his wedding day, when he married his best friend and husband. I was there for him while he was going through the coming out process, his fear of rejection by family and friends, his self-denial. I remember when he came out to his father on a long car trip, and his dad held his hand from the front seat the rest of the ride. I saw the happiness that enveloped his life when he embraced who he was and married the love of his life. The only shame was, at the time in the late 1990s before marriage equality began to arrive in the United States, we had to travel hundreds of miles to Toronto for the wedding ceremony.

One of the saddest days was when I was working in a law firm in Boston almost 10 years ago with a colleague at the law firm who had spent over 25 years with his life partner. He had just been diagnosed with cancer (he had a long family history, and his father recently died of the disease) and he just got off the phone with his partner and estate lawyer to plan for their affairs. Fighting back tears, he struggled to tell me how difficult it was going to be to arrange the transfer of assets to even let his partner keep living in their house, and how married heterosexual people have all this as a basic right. I thought at the time, how unjust is it that a man who built a whole life with his partner is struggling to get the legal protection that two teenagers can get in one night in Las Vegas.

What we're fighting for is justice and basic human rights, not any special treatment. On the marriage equality front, this is not about destroying heterosexual marriage, but simply about expanding the blessings of those institutions to others who deserve the same protection. I am a practicing Roman Catholic, and I believe my faith informs me to seek out and eradicate injustice in the world and fight for those who are being discriminated against.

In my view, when it comes to the battles for LGBT equality, we stand at the same crossroads we faced during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Just as then, change will never come unless we continue to fight for change.

The efforts of Sue Kerr and the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog will be as critical to the success of our current LGBT movement as the marches on Selma were then. While times have changed and our methods are now cyber, we have the same purpose now as we did then: to continue our fight for equality and keep this nation dedicated to its creed of liberty and justice for all.

Sue, keep up the great work!  I'm honored to stand with you.

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I promised I wouldn't edit, but I do have to share an amusing tale.  My first encounter with Kevin was at the January 10, 2009 LGBT Advocacy Rally .  He was in the back of the crowd wearing a long dark coat and looking suspiciously clean cut.  We discussed who this guy might be and decided he was probably an operative for the right wing.  Then he introduced himself, reminded me he had run for County Council and said he supported gay marriage!  I remained skeptical even whilst Kevin showed up again and again.  We met for coffee one summer afternoon and had a conversation that really touched my heart in a way that few interactions with politicians have done.  We also had a good laugh when I reminded him that I thought he was a spy infiltrating the gay community.  Ah … now I can resume being completely embarrassed at being compared to a civil rights march.  I said I wouldn't edit, I said I wouldn't edit.

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