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View Article  BlogFest, Letters to the editor, etc

Here's a good example of the challenge the gay community faces in the struggle for our full civil rights:

Democracy spoke

This letter is in regard to the photo of the Proposition 8 protest in the Region section of last Sunday's paper. While I understand the disappointment felt by those who support homosexual/lesbian marriage, I am quite baffled by their continuing protest in the wake of the vote on Proposition 8 in California.

In a true democracy the electorate vote directly on the issues, and this is exactly what occurs when a referendum is placed on the ballot. The people of California have spoken and the actions of those who desired a no vote on the proposition amount to nothing more than whining.

What would they think if those opposing the election of Barack Obama were now in the streets loudly protesting the results, which coincidentally mirror the results of the Proposition 8 vote? Get over it. If you feel strongly on this topic then begin working toward a new referendum and how you can convince the populace to see your point of view. Still be prepared for them to disagree, and if they do, please do not whine.

FRED STOCK
McCandless

First, why the distinction between homosexuals and lesbians?  That's a new one. 

Second, we do not live in a true democracy.  Those with voting power weren't exactly eager to extend civil rights to African-Americans, were they?  It took direct action, education and outreach to bring about change.  Bringing about another referendum will clearly only work if the gay community gets our messages in front of more people -- we have to persuade them.

Third, Mr. Stock, I take exception with your categorization of anti-Prop 8 protests as "whining."  The 500 something people who turned out last week for the protest were vocal and focused and positive.  I was there and I heard not a single whine.  I heard people laughing, chanting, chatting, sharing their stories and creating the kind of momentum that is necessary to bring about change.  I've been following efforts to channel that energy into something positive for Pittsburgh, such as the County Anti-Discrimination Legislation.  Calls to action -- to democratic action -- are being sounded.  The Mayor is seeking nominations for an LGBT Advisory Committee. 

Rest assured, Mr. Stock, that change is coming.  We can feel it in the air and we intend to keep exercising our civil liberties -- assembling, dissenting, voting, speaking, etc-- to promote change and the justice necessary to treat all citizens fairly.  You and others are entitled to disagree.  Kudos to you for writing a letter.  I'm disappointed that our allies didn't write letters from another perspective so point to your side on this one.

Friday was my first blogfest.  I met a handful of new folks, including another LGBT blogger (look in the blogroll for Jason Cable).  I got to catch up with David.  I had no idea whom half the people in the room were as I had to leave early to meet Ledcat.  Still, I went and that's new for me. 

Tomorrow is my first day on the new job.  I am excited and nervous.  I was hoping a kicky beret might help, but none are to be found at Lesbian Central.  I did dig out two winter caps and at least 7 single unmatched gloves.  When your hands are cold, does it really matter if the gloves match?  Really?

Tonight, we take Ana over to her potential dog sitter for a trial visit.  This is the determining factor in our trip to DC for the LGBT Blogging Initiative.  I discovered that we are being treated to an exclusive screening of "Milk" and a luncheon with Barney Frank.  Plus, Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend will be there to talk with us.  The HRC is hosting something as is the Victory Fund and other groups.  Plus, the invited Ledcat to join me. And I might get to have dinner with my college friend Karin.  I am tres excited. 

No whining!

View Article  County Council and Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Just received a call to action from the Steel-City Stonewall Democrats.  As you may recall, legislation has been introduced on the county level which would expand civil protections with regard to housing, employment and public accomodations to include the classes of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This is an important step for our region toward achieving equality for all residents. 

Without this legislation, it remains perfectly legal for a landlord in Monroeville to refuse to rent to a lesbian couple.  It remains legal for a restaurant owner in Bethel Park  to refuse service to gay men.  It is legal for an employer in McCandless to fire someone just for being gay. 

The chance to make an impact is nigh:

Allegheny County Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in Employment, Housing and Public Accommodations based on characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. 
 
The Council has, so far, been very interested in moving this non-discrimination ordinance forward.  Twelve (out of 15) Council members have signed on as co-sponsors!  One of Council?s next steps is to approve funding for the ordinance. Specifically, the County will have to hire folks to educate the public, to investigate complaints, and to prosecute violations of the ordinance.  The Council's Government Committee will be discussing the ordinance next Tuesday.

This isn't a feel good resolution expressing the will of the Council.  It needs to have some funding to give it teeth.  My partner Ledcat, as you may recall, is an investigator and can attest to the need to ensure that qualified people are hired -- outside of the ken of politics -- to protect the interest of the residents of the County.  This is a critical step in the process. 

The meeting is Tuesday at 5 PM.  Can you attend?  Perhaps not. It is a holiday week and you do have jobs.  One thing you can do is make a telephone call or send an email to your County Council Rep (and the two at large reps).  Those details are below:

Please contact your County Councilperson to thank him or her for supporting this ordinance.  Encourage your Councilperson to continue moving the legislation forward.  

 
You can look up your County Council District by following this link:
 
Sponsors:
Matt Drozd, Dist. 1
412.350.6525
 
Jim Burn, Dist. 3
412.350.6535
 
Michael Finnerty, Dist. 4
412.350.6540
 
Joan Cleary, Dist. 6
412.350.6550
 
Nick Futules, Dist. 7
412.350.6555
 
Chuck Martoni, Dist. 8
412.350.6560
 
Bob Macey, Dist. 9
412.350.6565
 
William Russell Robinson, Dist. 10
412.350.6570
 
Rich Fitzgerald, Dist. 11
412.350.6575
 
Jim Ellenbogen, Dist. 12
412.350.6580
 
Amanda Green (lead sponsor), Dist. 13
412.350.6585
 
John DeFazio, Council At-Large
412.350.6516
 
 
In case you wish to encourage the non-sponsors to become co-sponsors, here is their contact information:
 
Chuck McCollough, Council At-Large
412.350.6520
 
Jan Rea, District 2
412.350.6530
 
Vince Gastgeb, District 5
412.350.6545
 
 
(Councilmembers ?at-large? are elected county-wide and represent all residents of Allegheny County.)
 
 
In case you would like to attend: the Government Committee of the Allegheny County Council will be meeting this Tuesday, November 25, at 5:00pm to discuss this legislation.  The location is
436 Grant St., County Courthouse Rm. 119, Conference Rm. 1.  At this type of Committee meeting there is not the opportunity for public comment, but the public is welcome to attend, and you would be supporting the legislation with your presence.
 
 This is the forward momentum you've been hoping would spring from the Obama election and the anti-Proposition 8 rallies. This is your chance to do something very concrete that will have an impact in your own backyard.  Our Councilwoman is the primary sponsor, but I am going to call Chuck McCullough as he represents me in his "at-large" capacity.  I'm going to call John DeFazio, too. 
 
Imagine the impact if each of the 400-500 people who turned out this past Saturday picked up the phone to do the same thing.  On a County issue, that's huge. 

This is your opportunity.  Don't squander it. 
View Article  Gender and the City Paper

This week's City Paper has some good stuff ...

First up, the cover story on a gender discrimination suit that could have a tremendous impact on women in the workplace.  Was Brian Prowel the victim of sexism or homophobia?  We've covered this before.  Now we wait for the court decision. 

Marty Levine talks with activists about the importance of including "gender identity" in all LGBT advocacy efforts in 2009.  In PA, two bills are planned - the extension of non-discrimination protections and a hate crimes legislation bill.  This is particularly poignant as today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Among the 30 states lacking statewide protections for LGBT people, Pennsylvania has the greatest number of individual municipalities with anti-discrimination laws: 14, up from six in 2002. Trans protections in Pittsburgh were added in 1996 to a law that already protected gay people. In Philadelphia, protections for transgender residents were added in 2000. Other local governments are weighing similar measures. In Allegheny County, 11 out of 15 county councilors support anti-discrimination legislation that protects both gender identity and sexual orientation. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 25.

For the two state anti-discrimination bills to be proposed next year, Democratic state Rep. Dan Frankel of Squirrel Hill urged those attending the meeting to seek personal contact with their legislators. Even if a legislator would actively support such changes, Frankel says, voters can try to convince them to let the bills come up for a vote.

"Everyone in this room has a personal story that is powerful and meaningful and represents something that could be a teachable moment for a legislator," added the HRC's Glassman. "They need to see human beings who are transgender."

Go.  Read.

View Article  Luke forms LGBT Advisory Council with input from Leadership Pittsburgh

We've learned that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is working with Leadership Pittsburgh to form a permanent LGBT Advisory Council, comprised of 8-10 individuals.  The Mayor is currently working with more than 35 leaders in the LGBT community to solicit recommendations for the Council.  He and his staff will review the recommendations and determine whom will participate. 

Finally.  I've been blogging about this for months.  The participation of Leadership Pittsburgh may be a signal that this won't be a perfunctory nod to the local gay community.  With all of the new energy surrounding Prop 8, perhaps we can start to tackle some of the remaining sticky issues in the City.  Beginning with the fact that most of my contacts who work for the City and are gay do not believe their work environment is particularly gay supportive. 

Do you have any suggestions for the Council?

View Article  California Supreme Court Agrees to hear Challenge on Prop 8

Pam's House Blend has all the details.

The California Supreme Court agreed today to review legal challenges to Prop. 8, the voter initiative that restored a ban on same-sex marriage, but refused to permit gay weddings to resume pending a ruling.

Meeting in closed session, the state high court asked litigants on both sides for more written arguments and scheduled a hearing for next March. The court also signaled its intention to decide the fate of existing same-sex marriages, asking litigants to argue that question.

Today's decision to review the lawsuits against Proposition 8 did not reveal how the court was leaning. The court could have dismissed the suits, but both opponents and supporters of Proposition 8 sought review to settle legal questions on a matter of statewide importance.

View Article  Anti 8 Rally Generates New Pittsburgh LGBT Blog

What's Comes After 8, Pittsburgh? popped onto the local blog scene recently.   California transplant and newly married Christopher Hixson (also a scientist) started blogging:

I'm a newlywed (after a
government imposed 11
year engagement).  Shaken 
from my cushy life by 
the tragedy of California 
Proposition 8's passage, I 
started a blog to try and 
do my part to keep some
post-prop 8 momentum 
going in my current home,
Pittsburgh, PA.  Seriously.  I 
also do other things, and so 
should you.  Get involved.

Welcome aboard, Christopher.  We need more LGBT voices in the Burghosphere -- talking politics, sure but also other topics of interest to the general community. 

View Article  Letter to the Editor

It always brightens my day to read a letter in the Post-Gazette section focusing on the civil rights of the gay community.  Here's one example from Tuesday.

Creating inequality

Electing Barack Obama to be our president is a step toward eliminating racism; for this I am joyous and grateful. But sadly, eliminating racism does not mean ending discrimination.

This Election Day, voters in several states chose to enshrine discrimination into their state constitutions; Arizona, Florida and California voted to outlaw gay marriage while Arkansas voted to end the right to adoption for a targeted group of people.

All of these states passed constitutional amendments to eliminate civil rights for same-sex couples. Unequal treatment under the law is being written into state constitutions across our country.

Shame on all of us.

CHRISTINE ALLEN
Sewickley

Christine makes an excellent point about constitutionalizing discrimination against an entire set of people.  The follow up point would be the fallout these actions have on our most vulnerable citizens - children.  The law in Arkansas prohibits unmarried couples of all stripes from adopting or fostering children.  Any foster care recruiter or adoption specialist can tell you how many children languish because there are not enough homes that meet the existing standards or willing to step forward.  So now that state just wipes an entire class of people off the consideration board because they are in an unmarried relationship to restrict the rights of gay people.  Who suffers?  The teenagers living in residential settings because there aren't enough families.  The teens living on the streets because there aren't enough families.  The little children living in substandard homes because the pool of qualified homes has been reduced.

Shame is right.

View Article  Another Update on Cinemark - Now Its "Sexual Orientation"

Another contact from a Pittsburgh Cinemark Theater (Pittsburgh Mills).  Note this one uses the term "sexual orientation" in lieu of yesterday's "sexual preference" usage by the corporate office.  Do you think it is a local sensibility or just a lesson well learned?

They formally state that they include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. I asked to see a copy of that policy, especially since yesterday it included sexual preferences and asked for clarification on the change in language. I also asked them to identify any local or regional LGBTQ organizations which they have supported and reiterated the value of being proactive in this regard to offset the damage their company endures as a result of the CEO's donation in support of Prop 8. 

Do they seriously think that changing one word in a sentence is going to appease me?  Especially when that sentence is allegedly corporate policy?  You just don't change policies overnight and you sure don't change them on a local level without corporate input.  Any meaningful discussion with advisors from the LGBTQ community would have, hopefully, ensured that the policy include gender identity as well, so I'm assuming this was just an attempt to make me go away.

Are we going to go away?  Yes, actually.  I'm going to go to Squirrel Hill to see "Milk".  I'll go to the Southside Works to see other movies. I'm going to go online and continue encouraging you Cinemark Theaters to email and call them with requests that they take action to undo this regrettable damage by their CEO.  If they want us as customers, they need to treat us with respect and dignity.  If you don't have an option in your community, consider using Netflix which just partnered with Logo to offer DVD rentals of their programming.  Rent movies from your library.  Get some friends together to pool gas money and drive to the nearest town with a non-Cinemark theater to see "Milk" 

We as a community have options.  We aren't held hostage to every corporate entity in our community.  The CEO of Cinemark sent us a clear message that he'll gladly take our hard-earned dollars and then turn around to spend them to keep us in second-class citizenship.  Cinemark theaters across the country need to take individual action to offset this damage.  If the theaters in Pittsburgh contributed $1,000 to the local LGBT Film Festival or the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, then theaters in 9 other metro communities followed suit ... would that be okay to us?  Would the lesson be learned? 

As for the employees being harmed by a boycott, that's an age old argument.  I'd ague the employees are harmed more by the lack of a union than anything we can inflict.  I'd argue that employees can put some pressure on their bosses to acknowledge the damage being done and the viral nature of the bad reputation.  I'd argue that by calling for the company to create a culture that respects all customers, the work environment will be stronger and healthier and more affirming for LGBTQ employees and their families.  I'd argue that if you know someone who works for Cinemark and might lose some income because of this issue, take your ticket money and buy them a gift card for groceries.  Put your money where your mouth is, but keep your mouth open calling attention to this shameful conduct on the part of Cinemark.

Cinemark corporate can at any time meet with leaders on the national level of the LGBT community to discuss a resolution.  They can get the numbers and the names.  Here in Pittsburgh, regional staff can email me for the local contacts.  A solution can be found before "Milk" premieres that leaves everyone a winner. 

But you can't just change one word in a sentence and expect us to believe that things are different in your corporate culture.  If anything, that shows that nothing has changed at all.

Dear Sue,

We received your correspondence regarding your concerns about the
Proposition 8 vote in California. Please know that Cinemark made no
financial contribution to either side on this issue. The company does
not take a formal position on political issues that do not directly
affect our business. It would be inappropriate to influence our
employees' position on personal issues outside the work environment,
especially on political, social or religious activities. Cinemark is
dedicated to providing high quality entertainment for all of our
customers. As an equal opportunity employer, we do not discriminate
based on race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. We appreciate the
importance of this matter to you. We hope that you equally appreciate
that any individual act or contribution is just that, individual acts of
personal expression and do not reflect company positions or policy.

Cinemark 18-IMAX @Pittsburgh Mills #357
425 Pittsburgh Mills Circle | Tarentum, PA 15084
P:724-274-0155 | F:724-274-0157 | E: 357@cinemark.com

 

View Article  Blogger Summit

Hey.  I was just notified that this little correspondent has been selected to participate in the LGBT Blogger and Citizens Journalist Initiative in DC.  I applied in October, but since they planned to pick 35 folks, figured it was not gonna happen.  Hurrah, I was wrong!

Here's an article in the Washington Blade about the project.

Mike Rogers, a blogger who gained notoriety for outing closeted Republican officials, is spearheading a new initiative to support training and funding for the next wave of gay bloggers.

Rogers recently established the program, called the LGBT Bloggers & Citizen Journalist Initiative, with a $50,000 grant from philanthropist Jonathan Lewis.

Lewis is the son of Peter Lewis, one of the founders of Progressive Auto Insurance. Jonathan Lewis awards an annual scholarship through the Point Foundation?s National LGBT Scholarship Fund.

Rogers said the goal of the LGBT Bloggers & Citizen Journalist Initiative is to bring the online world together with traditional organizations that are sometimes lagging in the technology department.

Rogers said the initiative?s driving force is best encapsulated by a quote from Pam Spaulding, a lesbian blogger who writes at Pam?s House Blend: ?You can ignore us, but we are journalists, we are activists, it?s all one now.?

Rogers said that other progressive movements have been more effective in quickly disseminating their messages.

Citing this year?s killing of Lawrence King, the gay California teen who was shot Feb. 12, Rogers said fewer people online knew about that than last year?s ?Jena 6? controversy, in which six black Jena High School students in Louisiana were charged with attempted murder for attacking a white student after a noose was found hanging from a campus tree.

?How do we strengthen our voice so that when one of our young people is murdered, it becomes just as big of a story?? he said.

The initiative will begin with a December summit of 50 bloggers and representatives of gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which are sponsors.

This is interesting timing.  My blog post about Cinemark and Proposition 8 was promoted to the front page of Pam's House Blend and Lez Get Real today, drawing a lot of new visitors to this site.  When I applied, I submitted samples including my coverage of the Big Gay Meeting organized by the ACDC back in 2006.  The concept of journalist-activist continues to resonate with me as many of the promises at that meeting have yet to come to fruition (such as the meeting on the delivery of human services to Allegheny County's LGBTQ population). 

We have a long way to go right here in our own backyard.

Now, Ledcat and I have to see if we can make the arrangements to make it happen.  Kennel, work, etc.  It may not, but it sure is nice to be invited to the party. 

And I owe it all to Johnny Mac! 

View Article  Cinemark Responds on CEO Donation on Prop 8

I recevied this from Cinemark corporate:

Dear Sue,

We received your correspondence regarding your concerns about the
Proposition 8 vote in California. Please know that Cinemark made no
financial contribution to either side on this issue. The company does
not take a formal position on political issues that do not directly
affect our business. It would be inappropriate to influence our
employees' position on personal issues outside the work environment,
especially on political, social or religious activities. Cinemark is
dedicated to providing high quality entertainment for all of our
customers.

As an equal opportunity employer, we do not discriminate based on race,
creed, religion or sexual preference. We appreciate the importance of
this matter to you. We hope that you equally appreciate that any
individual act or contribution is just that, individual acts of personal
expression and do not reflect company positions or policy.


Kindest regards,


James Meredith
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Cinemark USA, Inc.
3900 Dallas Parkway, Ste 500
Plano, TX 75093
972.665.1060 (office)
jmeredith@cinemark.com

So it is a personal contribution and thus, of no concern to Mr. Meredith.  Of course, those of our "sexual preference" make personal decisions all the time about where to spend our money.  Money that filled the personal coffers of the Cinemark bigwhigs, enabling the CEO to make a $10,000 donation in support of Prop 8. 

In my response, I explained that I would prefer to see Mr. Meredith take the lead to offset the damages his corporate revenue have done to those in my community before I spend money a this local theaters. I encouraged him to seek out opportunities to support GLBTQ organizations in the Pittsburgh region -- I even made a few suggestions.   And I explained that my sexual orientation is no more a preference than his. 

In the meantime, I'll go elsewhere. 

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