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View Article  The Vault: Thy Status is Questioned

Wow ... rumors abound on the recent closure of The Vault.  I've had word from "the investors" claiming they closed for a few days because the staff resigned and new staff must be found. 

Will The Vault reopen or is this sort of like The Vault-lite with whipped cream and everything?  Will the lesbian friendly man-vibe continue?  Will they serve saran wrapped sandwiches? 

To be continued ...

View Article  California Ban on Gay Marriage Struck Down

From CNN.com

The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, saying sexual orientation, like race or gender, "does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

In a 4-3 120-page ruling issue, the justices wrote that "responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority.

How about that?  We deserve basic civil rights. 

I'm very happy.  We need to keep moving forward here in Pennsylvania, keep working toward expanding our own civil rights.  Keep motivated.  Keep up the pressure and the volume. 

View Article  Good-bye, The Vault, Good-bye

Sad news ... Brighton Height's The Vault closed its doors tonight for the final time.  As we've mentioned before, the lesbians love this place.  It had what we deemed a "lesbian friendly man-vibe."  I've probably been there a dozen times since last July and each was better than the last.  I loved the hummus, the ice tea and the great conversation with the staff. 

We stopped in for a final plate of hummus and had a little chat with Vault master-mind, Brad.  He confirmed the closure and we talked about Pittsburgh's overall love affair with coffeehouses or lack thereof.  He seemed resigned to the challenges of keeping afloat in a town that just isn't that into coffee houses. 

I feel kind of guilty.  Especially cause Brad still donated some really cool stuff to my door prize drive.  I wish I had patronized them more often. 

Brad and Drew helped me conceptualize a whole new recruiting tool for foster parents and I'm bummed them won't be around when it kicks into gear (I'm sure they have much bigger things to mourn, but hey ...). 

Tonight, Ledcat and I were invited to a Neil Diamond release party at the home of our friends (and Vault fans) Lisel and Joe.  It was big fun -- I brought jambalaya and someone else had red velvet cake.  Then there was a fire and smores.  Then Joe pulled out his guitar and interpreted Neil Diamond for us. 

I suggested a song in honor of The Vault and what it meant to us.  Joe played the next song he knew. 

So long Brad, Drew and the gang.  May the Northside Coffee gang live on.  Thanks for making the best damn iced tea I've ever had (and I lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for 10 years). 

From the point forward, memories of The Vault will forever be fused with this song a la Joe Skoski. 

Cracklin rosie, get on board
Were gonna ride till there aint no more to go
Taking it slow
Lord, dont you know
Have made me a time with a poor mans lady

Hitchin on a twilight train
Aint nothing here that I care to take along
Maybe a song
To sing when I want
Dont need to say please to no man for a happy tune

Oh, I love my rosie child
You got the way to make me happy
You and me, we go in style
Cracklin rose, youre a store bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin
So hang on to me, girl
Our song keeps runnin on

Play it now
Play it now, my baby

Cracklin rosie, make me a smile
Girl if it lasts for an hour, thats al right
We got all night
To set the world right
Find us a dream that dont ask no questions, yeah

Oh, I love my rosie child
You got the way to make me happy
You and me, we go in style
Cracklin rose, youre a store-bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin
So hang on to me, girl
Our song keeps runnin on

Play it now
Play it now
Play it now, my baby

Cracklin rosie, make me a smile
Girl if it lasts for an hour, thats all right
We got all night
To set the world right
Find us a dream that dont ask no question, yeah

 

View Article  The Death of Justin Jackson: When Will People Learn?

This isn't going to be the post you might expect from me. 

I am tired of watching families wail on television over the loss of a family member due to the police.  I am very sorry for the loss to the family and can completely understand that in their grief, they need to blame someone. 

I blame the media.   For two repeated mistakes.

First, they allow to go unchallenged the perception that the police are supposed to shoot armed suspects "in the leg" or somehow incapacitate them without putting the public and themselves at risk of being shot by a person wounded in the leg, not their arm.  It makes no sense.  It only happens on television.  Maybe we should try to incapacitate John Shumway via his leg and see if he can still shove the microphone into the face of a grieving parent?  Maybe David Highfield should do a very special episode of the KDKA news and actually inform the public about police procedures so they can in turn make informed decisions when walking around with stolen weapons.  Or loving the people who walk around with stolen weapons. 

Second, the police dog is a police officer. It doesn't matter if you think that's stupid.  It is written into state law so there ya go.  Deal with it.  If the dog disabled the person about to shoot you, you'd be pretty darn happy.  It doesn't work both ways.  The media images about police dogs always show them barking to tap right into one of the public's biggest fears -- dog bites.  Good job.  Make the public more afraid of the police. 

It just sickens me that there is so little critical thinking happening when the media cover these stories.  They are quick on WPXI to wave Justin Jackson's rap sheet all about as if that somehow warrants his death.  They are equally quick to pick the soundbite of his family's denial that he needed some serious intervention long before he took a stroll down Arlington Avenue. 

All that is missing is the quote from CPRB.  That will hit all the high notes and they'll be on to a new story. 

It is so freakin' reductionist.  Justin Jackson was a messed up kid who came from God knows what kind of background.  His family lost their son.  The police were doing their damn job.  The dog was doing his.  It is a complicated, social nightmare and yet no one seems to talk about it in rational terms -- they just want to get the juicy details and point the finger. 

I looked up Justin's record and it is not the record of someone who learned from a mistake.  He certainly didn't learn not to carry a stolen weapon.  Or how to interact with the police and come out alive.  So who failed to teach him that?

The police didn't know his record.  They knew he had a gun and that he was willing to shoot a police officer (yes, a dog -- we had this discussion).  He wasn't an 11 year old child running the opposite direction. 

Everyone had choices.  None of them were good. 

This makes me especially sick because of a situation in my own neighborhood one year ago.  A kid similar to Justin -- record of drugs and guns -- was dealing and causing problems.  Big brother in federal prison.  All four dads in his life had rap sheets. We did all the right things.  Made all the right calls.  Tried to tap into resources like One Vision, One Life  -- who should be making a television appearance any minute now -- to be repeatedly ignored and misled.  The sad thing is they were really ignoring and lying to this kid.  He didn't matter enough or he wasn't bad enough or violent enough for anyone to take some time to talk with him.  What's more meaningful -- a whole contingent of street warriors at a memorial service or one making some time to try and save a kid who wasn't that far gone? 

I'll say right now that the police were far more helpful than One Vision, One Life or our local "safety officer" or our elected officials.  The police did exactly what they promised.  Unlike the rest of them. 

May Justin Jackson rest in peace and may his family find some peace with his death. 

May the rest of us stop getting caught up in a Law & Order dramatic take on police conduct and actually start putting our energies into social programs that prevent and reduce these situations from happening.  May we elect leaders who invest our valuable resources into our valuable children and families.  May we hire administrators that run efficient and effective programs. 

Amen.

View Article  Way to Go Queers: PA Senate Tables Amendment Legislation

I saw it first at Delaware Online followed by the Post-Gazette.

HARRISBURG -- The state Senate this evening voted to table a bill that would have amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

The main sponsor, Sen. Michael Brubaker, R-Lancaster, said it had become clear to him that the bill would not pass in the House and he therefore saw no point to a lengthy debate in the Senate.

The bill might have passed the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans 29-21.

Up to 14 amendments were planned on the bill, which would have meant a long night.

So what does this mean?  Essentially, the bill has been put on ice, but it still has a heart beat and could come back.  We can't forget that even as we rejoice.

What does that mean?  YOU FREAKIN' DID IT!  The Bill was expected to pass the Senate today and head for the House to be killed.  But you you you beautiful homo lovin' telephone workin' fabulous folks made a difference.

Nice job, kids. 

Clearly, there is work to be done.  Now we have to turn our attention to HB1400 which will expand civil protections to our community.  Instead of fighting against, we are on the fighting for team and we have multiple champions, including the Pittsburgh City Council.

Luke Ravenstahl is not one of those champions on this issue.  He has declined to support the legislation. 

I'm just sayin...

View Article  Will Pennsylvania outlaw divorce?

Pennsylvania's most colorful Senator -- and he would stand out brightly even in the gayest of gay communities -- Vince Fumo is proposing to amend the, well, amendment legislation to outlaw divorce with a few exceptions.

Mr. Fumo, who leaves the Senate on Nov. 30, said the stated goal of Senate Bill 1250 is to "protect the sanctity of the marital institution" by defining a legal marriage as only between one man and one woman.

The next logical step, according to Mr. Fumo, is to also outlaw divorces

You know, there just isn't much I can add to that. 

Except this ... if Vince Fumo will go to such lengths, can't you make a phone call? 

We have to start calling our House members soon. 

View Article  SB1250 - What's Next?

The legislation passed in the Appropriations Committee 18 - 8.  Four Democrats voted yes.  Two Republicans voted no.  So now the legislation moves toward a vote by the full Senate. 

Yes, that means more telephone calls. 

The "yes" votes (pro-Amendment) in SW PA are:

John Pippy (R)

Barry Stout (D)  - Yikes!

Mary Jo White (R)

Regola (R)

The "no" votes (anti-Amendment) is SW PA are:

Gerald Lavelle (D)

Sean Logan (D)

So here is what you need to do.  If you live in Lavelle (most of Beaver County) or Logan (Monroeville and some of the Mon Valley) country, please call them to say thanks and ask them to continue to oppose the legislation. 

The big thing for me is Barry Stout -- a Democrat -- voting in favor of legislation that would constrict the civil rights of my community.  Your job is to think of at least one person you know that lives in his district and pick up the phone to call THAT PERSON to make a call to Senator Stout telling them they do not appreciate his vote on this issue and that not everyone in Washington, Greene or Beaver counties are bigots. 

Does your sister live in Mon City?  Is your cousin from West Finley Township?  I know there are gay people in Waynesburg.  This is the time.  Call 'em up.  Ask them who is taking care of their health care, their jobs and their taxes while Senator Stout protects them from gay marriage? 

Stout's telephone numbers:  (724) 225-5400    and   (717) 787-1463

And kudos to reader ctb for calling out John Pippy on the issue.  Is it deplorable that his staff would treat you with such disrespect just because your opinions differs from him.  He still works for you (and by default, so do they).  Good for you for not backing down.  Sending the letters is perfect.  You deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy when you call someone elected to represent you.  Good for you.

So get on the phone.  Here's a handy map for Senate contact information.  Lots and lots of gay people come rolling into town from these areas.  Hey, isn't Patrick Arena from Little Washington?  Someone call him.  Get some names from him.   Isn't Eda Bagel from Little Washington? 

I know some women from Beaver County read this blog.  We need your help! 

View Article  So, Monday is the Big Gay Rally and You Can't Get to Harrisburg?

UPDATE:  I made a call this morning to Fontana's office in Harrisburg.  They are getting a ton of calls, going both directions.  Similar reports from Costa's Harrisburg office.  Keep it up.  Sneak out for a cigarette break, even if you don't smoke, to make the call. I also heard that the rally is noisy.  All good news.  Keep it up.  You are doing great

******************************************************************

Rejoice, fair homo and homo allies, for there is something very important you can do right from the comfort of your own cell phone.

Call your Senator.  Tell the nice staff person who answer the phone that you are opposed to attempts to amend the constitution of Pennsylvania to prevent gay marriage aka SB 1250.  That's all you really need to say, along with your name and address (so they know you are really a constituent).

If you want to say more, do so.  Ask how the Senator stands on this issue (if you don't know).  Thank the Senator for a pro-homo stance.  Tell them why you are opposed to the amendment. Talk about your family.  Mention the issues that are important to you -- health care?  employment?  economic development?  taxes?  whatever!

For my impassioned take on things, visit my Blog for Equality post.

The important thing is that you are reaching for your cell phone right now, scribbling down the number and heading for whatever quiet nook is necessary for you to make the call. 

Why now?  Why Monday?  Because the bill is going to be voted out of Appropriations and possibly to the full Senate for a vote.  This week.  So waiting until it is more convenient for your individual life is not an option. 

This isn't a situation where you -- especially if you are a gay person or love a gay person -- have the luxury of letting someone else do the heavy lifting.  A contingent of Pittsburghers gave up a day to staff the rally for us.  The telephone calls, well that's our part of the homosexual agenda.  Step lively, people. Or, rather, dial lively! 

You know that this amendment is smoke screen designed to keep us from organizing around important civil rights legislation sitting in committee.  You know that this is about using gay marriage as an issue for the election -- rile 'em up to vote for McCain. 

And you know that is all complete bullshit. The worst thing that could happen to our heterosexual married friends, family members and neighbors if Ledcat and I were to marry?  The wedding registry.  We have expensive tastes.

 

Why are you still reading this?  Oh, you need telephone numbers.  Here's the entire fleet of Southwestern PA Senators.  If you don't know who represents you, click here to find out. 

Jay Costa   Hburg  (717) 787-7683   Pittsburgh   (412) 241-6690
Sean Logan   Hburg (717) 787-5580    Pittsburgh  (412) 664-5200
Wayne Fontana Hburg (717) 787-5300   Pittsburgh (412) 344-2551
John Pippy  Hburg (717) 787-5839   Pittsburgh  (412) 262-2260
Jim Ferlo Hburg (717) 787-6123    Pittsburgh  (412) 621-3006
Jane Orie Hburg (717) 787-6538   Pittsburgh (412) 630-9466 j
J. Barry Stout  Hburg (717) 787-1463   Pittsburgh (724) 225-5400 b
Gerald Lavelle Hburg (717) 787-3076   Pittsburgh   (724) 654-1444
Mary Jo White Hburg (717) 787-9684   Pittsburgh  (814) 432-4345
Donald C.White Hburg (717) 787-8724   Pittsburgh  (724) 357-0151
Robert D. Robbins Hburg (717) 787-1322   Pittsburgh (724) 588-1323
Bob Regola Hburg (717) 787-6063    Pittsburgh   (724) 600-7002
Richard Kasunic Hburg (717) 787-7175   Pittsburgh (724) 626-1611

Now stop reading and start calling.  It is practically painless. 

 

 

Seriously, are you dialing? 

View Article  Gay Marriage Round Up

Wow, lots to catch up on ...

Monday, May 5, 2008 is the Rally in Harrisburg.  Rally?  The Rally Against the "Protection of Marriage" Amendment.  Ledcat and I had hoped to attend, but fate (and work) conspired against us. Are you planning to attend?  I'm hoping for an eyewitness account.

Last week, there was a "highly charged" hearing in Harrisburg.  The PG has the coverage

Scott Hollander, executive director of KidsVoice, said his board members are divided on the gay marriage issue but unanimous in opposing the language banning "the functional equivalent of marriage." Under that language, children placed with unmarried foster parents could be denied health insurance through domestic-partner benefit programs and could face hurdles if those foster families want to adopt them, he said.

"They could lose many of the benefits they currently enjoy," said Mr. Hollander, whose group serves abused and neglected children in Pittsburgh.

It continues to amaze me that the folks opposed to the amendment have a long list of concrete ways this legislation will have a negative impact on families whereas the other side just has a claim that it will protect families with nothing to back it up.  How is it we are still having this discussion?

Here are the letters of recent vintage:

M.W. Sage of Swissvale puts it succinctly:

Regarding the bill to protect heterosexual marriage ("Backers, Foes of Gay Marriage Collide at Capitol," April 30): There are many greater issues needing attention. Couples know when a relationship is working and when it isn't. They can seek help if they want it.

The same is so for gay relationships.

The nation and the world have more pressing issues to be addressed. Let the Legislature busy itself with those.

Well put.

Meanwhile, a series of letters in the Tribune Review finally address this issue.

First up is Sharon Capretto of Mt. Washington.  She is a member of the Cult to Protect Marriage (something like that) and thinks that the will of the people is not embedded in our legislative system.  She must not vote.  Or at least, she doesn't trust most of the people who do vote:

This proposed amendment would give our federal Defense of Marriage Act constitutional protection to ensure that a judge or the Legislature could not redefine marriage in our state without the will of the people. Twenty-seven states have seen fit to pass similar amendments. Pennsylvanians would like the same consideration.

In response, Amesh Adalja of Butler (hey, that's cool -- Metcalfe Country)is embarrassed by the Republicans embracing this issue at the expense of real concerns.

Inserting religious proscriptions into the state Constitution utilizes precious legislative time that could be directed toward lowering taxes, scaling back the size of state government, privatizing the state liquor stores and many other worthy Republican causes.

Then, Kris Sanders of Squirrel Hill (really?) chimes in:

Such moral reasoning recognizes that marriage is inherently based upon the complementarity between a man and a woman. They are clearly designed to come together in a way that leads to the generation of new life. It is the fundamental building block of any society.

I'm not sure it is scientifically accurate to claim that two men or two women cannot complement each other, unless you reduce human beings to the sum of the reproductive organs.  I'd say the 20,000+ children in the Pennsylvania foster care system are proof positive of that reductive assumption being utter bullshit.  By the way, how many kids do you foster, Kris? 

Now, I'm not an expert on the Founding Fathers, but I did study a little political theory.  My understanding of Jefferson and Madison is that society is built upon the individual in relationship to the institution.  They had a clear concept of individual freedoms and liberties, not family based liberties. Women and children weren't even enumerated in the Constitution, considered the property or wards of the male head of household.  Is that where Kris wants to go?  It was only through societal progress and a recognition of the civil rights of women (and children) that the modern family has evolved (and women are allowed to read newspapers). 

The family is not the building block of society, Kris.  Your partner/spouse and your children have rights and responsibilities that are separate and distinct from your own.  Coming together to build a family sometimes strengthens society and sometimes does not.  But you should be more precise if you plan to throw around scientific terms like "complementarity." 

Have you written your letter to the Post-Gazette, the Tribune-Review or the Pittsburgh City Paper?  People do pay attention.  Even legislators. 

View Article  Oh, those lesbitarians ...

Always taking over with their wholegrain, crunchy goodness and all those eggplants!

Actually, I'm really starting to dig vegetarian food when it is cooked by Jessica at Hoi Polloi.  Or Ledcat.  Or anyone but me.  But still ... does everything have to be vegetarian? What next -- recycling bins at Wendys?

I regret to say that Lesbian Night at Dozen Bakeshop has morphed into Lesbitarian Night, complete with vegetarian chili (note to anyone reading this -- I hate chili more than anything in the world.  Except snakes.  And pickles).   I almost wept to realize that rather than a simple free cupcake, I would have to fork over $10 for a vegetarian meal.  Even if it does include a red velvet cupcake. 

On a Tuesday. 

Sigh.  I mean I can see the cute word play and vegetarianism is much healtheir and it really isn't cool to say LesbiFleshEaters.  Still ... cupcakes!  That's part of the lesbian nation, too.  Coffee and a cupcake.  That's all I wanted. 

Plus, the Dozen people aren't even sending me their promotional materials after I hooked them up with Ehrrin and her dyke salute.  No little press releases about chili of the week.  Nothing.  I may not like the chili, but I like the lesbians part.

If Hoi Polloi starts offering cupcakes, I'm set.  Can I go back to the Priory Bakery now that Brenda Frazier lost her election?  All these rules confuse me.  I just want a cupcake!

And you know when I want one?  On Saturday nights when we go out to dinner and have some time to kill.  But it is hard to find a cupcake on a Saturday night that is not encased in cellophane. 

Now I'm going to want one all day tomorrow.  Not a lot of cupcakes in East Liberty.  I'm afraid of Paddy Cakes (why make the cake so fast, baker's man?  why would i want to share my cake with a baby who should not eat cake?) 

See, this is what happens ... darn lesbitarians.  Lesbivores?  Sigh.  This is what happens when Jessica gets me to try tofu crumbles and kidney beans in the same evening.  The whole world goes topsy turvy. 

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