My Big Idea for the New Mayor as Published in the Post-Gazette

I was recently asked to contribute to a compendium piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on “big ideas” for the next Mayor of Pittsburgh. Other contributors include economist Chris Briem, Cheryl Hall-Russell from Hill House Assocation, Jon Rubin from CMU and Leah Lizarondo of “The Brazen Kitchen” blog and more!

Image: Daniel Marsula, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Image: Daniel Marsula, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Here’s what I submitted:

Emphasize equality

Sue Kerr, editor, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Address LGBTQ equality with standout reforms that protect everyone and create an inclusive workplace culture to attract new business development — reforms similar to those in Philadelphia and those found in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. These would include:

1) A tax credit to companies that provide domestic partner health insurance coverage. 2) A tax offset on city employees’ domestic partner health insurance which is currently counted as pre-tax income, unlike family coverage for married employees. 3) Reduced barriers for low-income LGBTQ families to join the domestic partner registry. 4) Gender-neutral bathrooms required for new construction or renovation of city facilities. 5) A new office of LGBTQ or diversity affairs. 6) LGBTQ community members recruited for public safety roles as well as board and council appointments.

The focus is on creating opportunity, not solely preventing discrimination or responding to discriminatory treatment.

These are not new-to-me ideas. I’ve come across a few in various articles, reports and white papers on municipal policy. While it is good to have local support for issues such as marriage equality, it is equally important to educate our municipal electeds about the many ways in which they can actually create a more equal society, not just support one.

In November 2013, the Human Rights Campaign will issue a follow-up “Municipal Equality Index” report which will not only include the three more densel LGBTQ populated regions in the state, but also the largest cities. So while Pittsburgh is *not* among the former, it should be part of the equation in 2013. That’s clearly too soon for the new Mayor to have an impact (he won’t even be the Mayor!) but it will set a clear benchmark for him – a chance to look critically at our equality issues as they are defined in 2013, not 1999.

We’ve reached a point where measuring a candidate’s stance on domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination laws and marriage equality are not sufficient for the local level. I was a little shocked to realize that Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ population was not large enough to include us in the 2012 edition of the index – we’ve lost LGBTQ residents. Nonetheless, we’ll now have something to start from and November allows both Steel City Stonewall and the Gertrude Stein Club ample time to revisit their candidate questionnaires for the primary in 2014.