This is a very important blog post about a very important decision taking place just a wee bit north of Downtown Pgh. Butler City Council is considering creating a Human Relations Authority that would be responsible for ensuring resident of the City are protected in areas of employment, housing and public accommodation from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
There is a meeting on Thursday, August 25 at 7 PM to consider the matter. It is imperative that people with ties to Butler turn up at the meeting and register to testify in favor of the ordinance. You can also submit your feedback via email, but it will not be part of the formal record.
According to folks associated with PFLAG Butler, the opponents outnumbered supporters last month so this is an “all hands on deck” moment to get people to this meeting next week.
We aren’t going to see statewide protections anytime soon, at least not inclusive protections. At best, some people will get some protections in employment and housing. Maybe. We’ll see. Ahem.
So it is really up to people on the ground to fight these battles on the municipal level. Not only does that create legitimate protections for people in the municipality, but it creates momentum. One municpality leads to another and then another.
It is also significant that an ordinance victory in the home territory of State Representative Daryl Metcalfe would be a moral victory with some real power behind it.
So those are all very important reasons why you should put this meeting on your calendar and be there. Share this post with your friends in Butler. Share the Facebook event. Get the word out and get people to the meeting.
You can read the proposed ordinance here in .pdf format. Pass it around to your friends – just 8 pages.
Here’s the contact information for elected officials in the City of Butler. Please call or email right away. Be polite, but firm. You do have to sign-up to speak at the public meeting. Here’s the specifics. Even if you miss the deadline to speak, it still matters very much that you show up in solidarity with all the folks in Butler.
Let me share something else. We have two different audiences to contend with. First are the openly hostile folks who think we are unleashing hell on earth by passing the ordinance. We know these folks and know their rhetoric. They can barely be convinced to allow us to exist much less recognize our actual rights as citizens of the United States. And human beings.
Second are allies who don’t realize how these protections work.
Case in point – on Saturday, an acquaintance of mine contacted me for advice for a third person whose trans identified son was leaving the Peters school district for another; she specifically wrote “may not have the same protection he would have here in PA.”
Peters Township is in Washington County which has no legal protections for LGBTQ residents, including students. In fact, Washington County was the epicenter of a national debate about students rights last year. Neither my acquaintance or her friend, the parent of a trans student, seemed to be aware of that fact. I’m not sure that it is possible to move to a district with fewer rights than none with the possible buffer of class and privilege living in an upscale suburb. Maybe.
When I asked these folks to discuss their misinformation, they just changed the subject. And THAT frightens me. I’m sure it was awkward and embarrassing to admit you got the law wrong, but it is potentially lethal for people in our community and certainly destructive to our day to day quality of life.
My advice? Don’t assume you know the law and don’t assume allies know the law. Get yourself informed and then spread that solid information. I’m not sure why people continue to remain uninformed. There have been lots of newspaper articles, blog posts and media segments. Ha, obviously, I’m kidding. People remain uninformed because life is busy, hard and exhausting. And when someone says “hey, can I help you understand how non-discrimination policies work in your County” and you are not LGBTQ, it is easy to just close that little chat window and move on to something else.
LGBTQ folks know the score. The vast majority of AMPLIFY respondents identify statewide nondiscrimination protection as their top legislative and community priority. And if you read their responses carefully, you’ll see that most of us tend to downplay the discrimination we experience (often as microaggressions) because we are very aware that some of us are literally losing jobs, homes and our lives to this pervasive evil.
So take it from me, your trusty lesbian correspondent – I have experienced hostile work environments, harassment, been denied promotions, shamed, and more in every single job I held from the day I came out to the day that I stopped working for other people. Every job. I was told not to use the word lesbian because it might offend donors, I was sent lesbian porn by superiors, I had my office trashed (twice), I was told to tone down the references to my lifestyle when I mentioned my partner, asked to stop antagonizing my black coworkers whose Christianity made them inherently homophobic (that was obviously more racist than just homophobic, but it happened) and so much more. And I’m a freaking social worker. Employed in Pittsburgh. By people who are considered helpers. With a partner who is a lawyer. It happens. Every day. To lots of people. It happens.
You haven’t lived until you’ve had to explain lesbian sexual slurs to several levels of HR folks. Over and over. In writing and in person. Even the pursuit of justice with the full force of law behind me was a cruddy experience.
This ordinance won’t fix Butler City, but it will create something tangible and real for residents who currently have nothing. When I fought my battles with HR, we all knew that the City law was pretty clear on the matter.
As long as our state lawmakers remain frozen in 1973, we are going to have to work hard on a municipal level to secure these protections for our community. If you know someone who lives in Butler City or works there or does business there, send them this blog post. Take a few moments to share your own thoughts via email.
Our neighbors are counting on you. Will you show up?