Updated: Open Letter to John C. Welch, Candidate for Mayor in Pittsburgh

Dear Reverend Welch,

A robust primary election process is necessary for a healthy democracy, so I have been watching your early candidacy days with anticipation of your agenda for Pittsburgh. Because I have yet to see any public statements by you on LGBTQ issues and the LGBTQ residents of Pittsburgh, I am writing this letter. You are running a people’s campaign and we are part of the people of Pittsburgh.

As a man of faith, I am sure you are aware of the discomfort many of us who are LGBTQ feel with a religious institution that has treated us poorly for centuries. This historical oppression by Christians against LGBTQ people makes it necessary for any person of faith to take very big steps to demonstrate the compassion and respect the Gospel tells us that we deserve. I look forward to your big steps, both for our community and for the general public to have confidence that you can hold civil office as a man of the cloth without conflating church and state.

Unfortunately, you did not submit an endorsement questionnaire to the Steel City Stonewall Democrats or the Gertrude Stein Club so we are unable to rely on those traditional indicators of any candidate’s LGBTQ competency and support. I must admit that I was dismayed that you teamed up with the Salvation Army to hold a campaign event, but did not show the same respect to the LGBTQ community by responding to the Steel City request. (See update below to clarify that he did attend the meeting, but did not complete the questionairre)

I am a white cisgender lesbian, but I have been paying attention. Over the past four years, we have lost eight queer and trans people of color to violent deaths in this region. In the past five months alone, two young black lesbians have been killed by gun violence in the City. The leadership of queer and trans women of color, black and non-black, has been a source of hope and a fulcrum to unveil the impact of intersectionality on racial justice.

So I will put a few questions to you and your supporters in the hopes of getting a swift and public response. FYI, here’s Mayor Peduto’s responses to the Steel City questions.

First, as a faith leader, what specifically have you done in your Presbyterian denomination and within the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) to support LGBTQ rights? Have you introduced or supported legislation? Have you created or expanded programming? Has PIIN taken public stances on LGBTQ issues as civil rights and social justice issues?

Second, what specific actions would you take as Mayor to address the unique needs of LGBTQ youth living in Pittsburgh?

Third, as Mayor, would you be willing to officiate at same sex weddings in your civil role, in essence officiating a civil ceremony as opposed to a religious ceremony?

Finally, do you personally feel that homosexuality is a sin? Why or why not?

I specifically request that all progressive folks who identify as allies to the LGBTQ community reach out to the campaign for a response to these questions. I will be following up with you individually.

You can reach me via Facebook or email with responses.

Thank you,

Sue

ps: I do acknowledge that Darlene Harris also did not respond to the Steel City questionnaire, but she is a known entity. I know from experience that she thinks I’m a human being deserving of respect and dignity, she does not have animus toward me. That doesn’t earn my vote, but it does not require me to sort out her positions. If she wants to answer these questions, that’s fine, of course.

UPDATE: I have confirmed with the Steel City Stonewall leadership that Darlene Harris and John Welch did turn up at the endorsement meeting and answered one question each verbally. There is no documentation (yet) available – no transcript of their answers, no video, etc. It is never too late to set the record straight on your LGBTQ views, candidates, but it is necessary to do so in writing and for the world to see.

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