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View Article  Big Gay Meeting: What Happened?

The Delta Foundation meeting took place on Tuesday evening.  Reports range from 50-150 people in attendance.  Some of the feedback I've heard: 

- The Delta Foundation claimed it was the first town hall meeting for Pittsburgh's GLBT community.  Surely, that just cannot be the case.  I know that Voices for a New Tomorrow held similar meetings and I'm sure that it took a few of those to get the LGBT Community Needs Assessment off the ground.  Or back in the day, when the PhoneLine and the GLCC were launched.  Am I that blanking on whole chapters of local gay history?  I mean this was a really well attended meeting and more power to them for turning out a big crowd, but I'm curious about that claim.

- DF committed to two events:  PrideFest and Pride in the Streets.  The other events will require others to get involved, which isn't unreasonable per se.  So the concept of "Pride Week" is a bit vague unless other groups come forward to set up what are being labeled partner events.  It will be interesting to see what grows from this challenge of sorts. (I am going to organize a partner event in my daytime guise and I've already identified some partners so I am putting my money/time where my mouth is on this one.)   The DF has a board member dedicated to building these partnerships and she is off to a really good start. 

- Again, the issue arose that the board is entirely white and almost nearly gay men with money.  So, you have the claim that PrideFest is for everyone balanced against a pretty "business as usual" group of decision makers, however well intentioned.  It is going to take a lot of effort on the part of this group to demonstrate a real commitment to diversity.  My personal fear is that those on the board are not going to make substantial overtures to under-represented segments of the community, at least not to share power.  It would be great if the planning committees are filled with women and persons of color and men and women who are transgendered and bisexual, but it is equally important that power and authority be shared.  I hope the Foundation will commit to fill their two vacant board seats with individuals from these communities.  That would be a significant statement about inclusivity.

- Luke Ravenstahl is going to hire a part-time liaison to the LGBT community and is accepting applications from the LGBT community to serve on an advisory board.  I'm working to track down the contact information to send in your resume.  This could be interesting if we can get some community representation on the boards and authorities (beyond the arts.)  This could be an interesting development.  Again, it would be powerful if the liaison were a lesbian or a woman who is transgendered or someone outside the political normative power structure. 

- There's 12 hours of entertainment to fill.  I nominate Gab Bonesso. Someone named Kimberly Locke is going to headline at Pride in the Streets. I don't know who she is, but I think she's from American Idol.  I'm woefully out of the American Idol loop.  I am much more in the local queer talent loop and think Gab Bonesso would be a wonderfulacious emcee for Pridefest -- she's young, hip and have proven she can work a family oriented crowd really well. 

My impression?  They have good intentions and some significant resources.  I would personally like to see the organization prioritize diversity and inclusivity among the leadership as well as the rank and file, but I certainly wish them well.  It will be interesting to see what happens with the events and if they can take PrideFest to a new level -- is the event ready to take that leap?

One caveat. I dislike the rhetoric that builds up the new projects at the expense of those who came before.  The GLCC took a bankrupt event and rejuvenated it.  The GLCC board attempted to be diverse.  The event wasn't perfect, but some of the "dawn of a new gay" rhetoric makes me cringe a bit.  The GLCC is still our community center and if it isn't working for us, then we can make some changes (some are underway).  I hope we don't toss out the baby with the bathwater in this regard.

View Article  Trib Readers Continue to Debate Marriage

There's been quite a little exchange going on at the Tribune Review with readers from New York City with Pgh roots defending the homosexuals and folks from Jeannette and Squirrel Hill condeming us. 

The latest round features a January 25 letter from New York explaining how anti-gay rhetoric impacts his family:

Growing up Catholic and gay in Greensburg, I can attest to the harm produced by such language. Through 16 years of Catholic education I was demeaned on the playground and from the pulpit.

My heart broke as my parents' priest took a public stand against my marriage and encouraged others to fight against my family. It pressed the old wounds that made me as a boy want to end my life. Gay children listen to this same hurtful message today.

Kris Sanders of Squirrel Hill comes roaring back in full attack mode.

He throws the stones and then bandages himself so as to look like the victim. Indeed, the pro-homosexual lobby uses "hate speech" laws as a means to stifle Christian preachers in many parts of the world.

Clearly, this lobby wants to pressure the Catholic Church into endorsing the morally disordered acts of homosexuality -- such as two men pretending they can live as husband and wife.

I don't know any married gay men who pretend to be husband and wife.  That's silly rhetoric designed to drag a little genderbashing into the discussion. 

Kris doesn't get that.  We aren't pretending to be anything.  Well, we pretend to be straight at work and school and church, but that's a matter of survival and self-preservation. 

But my point is .... why are gay men from New York City filling the pages of the Tribune Review with this discussion, while the multitudes of local homos remain quiet?  Why aren't local folks writing letters?  You don't have to live in Greensburg!  Pick up a pen.  Respond to Kris Sanders pigeonholing your family as a homosexual lobby. 


View Article  Big Gay Meeting Tomorrow: I Can't Go

Tomorrow, the Delta Foundation hosts the latest incarnation of a Pittsburgh Queer Town Hall Meeting.  It is at 7 PM at One Mellon Center.  You should go.  Find out what's happening. 

I have to work, so I'll be relying on you to report out to the community. 


View Article  One Teeny Update on Will of Council and State Marriage Amendment

As you recall from Tuesday, City Council voted 7-0 to support state legislation including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity/gender expression" into the classes protected under the PA Human Relations Act.  Motznik and Payne were out of the room during the vote, hence the 7.

My sources tell me that both Motznik and Payne co-sponsored this resolution, as did all of the other members of Council except Ricky Burgess.  Burgess did vote in favor of the legislation.  So, I am told, it is practically the same thing as a unanimous endorsement.

I guess. What do you think? 

I'm still waiting to hear what happened in Harrisburg with the marriage amendment.  You know that's one thing that really frustrates me -- we get these "hurry, hurry, hurry" messages from the lobbying groups with very concrete deadlines by which we must take action.  Then, days and days go by with no follow-up, not even a simple acknowledgement.  In the information age, that's unacceptable.  We need better infrastructure.  There's no weekly, much less daily, gay media source in Western Pennsylvania.  Websites aren't being updated and voice mail boxes are full.  Email messages go unacknowledged. 

Here's what I would have liked on Wednesday.  A blast email:

Thanks for all of your email messages, letters and calls.  This week, we'll be visiting with your elected officials to discuss this important issue and carry your messages.  To keep up to date with the status of the legislation, visit our website at www ...

That's long been a downside to local LGBT everything -- communication does not filter from the top decision makers on down to the everyday homo. 

The good news is that Diane Gramley hasn't updated me, either. 

View Article  Live Blogging My Tuesday Afternoon

3:15 PM Leave office and drop promotional literature off at several local businesses.  Buy King Cake to share with office on Wednesday. 

4:00 PM Arrive at Hoi Polloi.  Artfully distribute promotional literature.  Meet Jessica's other brother.  Realize lack of eating since dinner on Monday so order curried pumpkin soup and grilled cheese sandwich. 

4:15 PM Finish eating.  Soup is OMG. 

4:30 PM Read text of HB 1400 that was helpfully sent to me by Dan Frankel's staff.  Try to find exactly how religious organizations get exempted from discriminating against queer people.  Get confused.

4:45 PM Order a coffee beverage to kick start analytical skills.  Delicious.  Still confused.

4:50 PM  Email contacts in gay politics to ask for help.  Email Frankel's people for explanation.  Email high school buddy to set up coffee date.

4:54 PM  Support local business and local agricultural industry by ordering muffin. 

4:55 PM No response from contacts in gay politics.  Still confused.  Coffee beverage still very hot. 

View Article  "Will of Council" on Anti-Discrimination Legislation Passes 7-0

From my ace source comes word that the legislation endorsing the statewide effort to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in the Human Relations Act passed 7-0.  Motznik and Payne weren't in the room and didn't vote. 

Deasy asked to be added as a cosponsor, offering that he was behind on his email as a reason for his delay in doing so.  Huh.

Now here's the interesting part.  Reverend Burgess voted in favor of the legislation because he's against discrimination AND because the bills have exemptions for religious entities.  Its awesome when the law meant to protect people from discrimination lays out who gets the freedom "to" discriminate.  Awesome.

I have a call into Dan Frankel's office for clarification on what those exemptions mean. More on that later.


View Article  I'm a blog addict ...
81%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
View Article  Update from City Council: Two Members not so "Willing" to support the gay community

From our friends at Steel City Stonewall Democrats comes word that 7 out of 9 members of City Council have agreed to support the proposed "Will of Council" which essentially gives a big thumbs up to state legislation that would include "sexual orientation" and gender identity and expression" as protected classes under the Human Relations Act.  These protections already exist within the City; this action underscores that those protections have strengthened the City

Two aren't supporting it.  That would be Councilman Dan Deasy of District 2 (which includes the neighborhoods of Banksville, Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Duquene Heights, East Carnegie, Eliott, Esplen, Fairywood, Mount Washington, Oakwood, Ridgemont, and Sheraden).  That would also be Councilman Ricky Burgess of District 9 (includes the neighborhoods of East Hills, East Liberty, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln/Lemingon/Belmar, And Point Breeze North).

I can only speculate as to why either man would choose to stand silently by while this opportunity passes.  Reverend Burgess is a former board member of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force so it is inconceivable that he not be aware of the discrimination so many members of our community have faced in the housing market and on the job.  Surely, he must have absorbed that the stigma of AIDS is deeply intertwined with the stigma of being gay and that a just society does not allow vulnerable individuals to go without a place to live or the means to feed their family simply because they don't fit in. 

I believe unanimity is important on this issue.  I have oft stated that Pittsburgh is a good place to be gay and that Pittsburgh's gay community strengthens the entire region.  A hallmark of my belief rests on the legacy of this local piece of legislation that could.  We have inherited a Mayor who does not believe in civil unions, but we do have the fortune to stand upon the shoulders of many activists who worked tirelessly to achieve this reform. 

I'll be at work tomorrow when Council votes on this.  Maybe someone can email me the outcome? 

View Article  Prove the AFA of PA right!

Diane Gramley might be a bit worried about how awesome you guys have been about calling your State Senators to oppose the  so-called protection of marriage amendment. 

Here's what she shared with me today:

Senator Michael Brubaker is looking for co-sponsors of SB 1250, the Marriage Protection Amendment bill.  Click here for a news release we issued earlier today ? marriage is being assaulted to our north, east and south.  We WILL be next, if steps are not taken to protect marriage.  

 Those who oppose this bill and would like to see same-sex marriage legalized are bombarding Senate offices asking them not to co-sponsor the bill. 

 Do they mean business?  Equality Advocates and the ?Value All Families Coalition? are planning a statewide week of action next week to gain support for passing HB 1400 which would add ?sexual orientation and gender identity or expression? to the PA Human Relations ActI can guarantee opposing SB 1250 will now be part of that statewide week of action.

OK, so she shared it with her entire email distribution list.  Having been part of that list for over two years, I sense a shift in tone. Gramley knows that people who might feel a little so-so on gay marriage are likely to be more sympathetic to extending civil protections in employment, housing and so forth to LGBT individuals and families. 

So keep up the good work.  If you haven't done so, call your Senator and ask s/he to oppose the Marriage Amendment.  Ask them about the PA Human Relations Act. 

Diane thinks you mean business.  Prove her right.

View Article  The PA Gay Marriage Amendment: Be Vigilant

In today's Tribune Review, I found ample evidence of the need for our entire community and our allies to remain vigilant.  It is a simple letter to the editor and I'm sure no one is surprised to read a pro-Catholic/anti-gay marriage letter there.  Nonetheless, this letter isn't guised as some hysterical screed invoking horrific images of a thunderous God striking down the homo sinners. 

In his letter "Gays & the church" (Jan. 16 and PghTrib.com), Anthony Brown of New York City indicates that all gay couples want is tax, health, pension, visitation and death protections that are a part of marriage.

Currently in Pennsylvania there are no limitations on visitation rights and no restrictions on who can benefit in a will. Tax, health and pension benefits are economic in nature. It is interesting that what seems most important to the author is the economic "benefits" he could gain if his relationship were to be legally recognized as being equivalent to marriage.

If people start becoming partners so that they can share economic benefits, Social Security, Medicare and pension plans will become bankrupt. Employer-subsidized health care will cease to exist as people claim to be couples in order to exploit benefits. Rather than become embroiled in the need to determine who is and who is not a legitimate couple, companies will simply not offer spousal benefits to anyone.

Brown referred to spiritual intolerance and said it's "time for the Catholic Church to reach out to its gay and lesbian members, not marginalize them."

While Catholic and most other Christian churches do not support a gay lifestyle, they do not turn away gays and do not condone negative behavior toward those who make that choice.

Christian churches uphold the values that are documented in the Bible, which include compassion for others, and confirm that marriage is a lifelong bond between man and woman, based on love and respect, not based on economic benefits.

I applaud the Diocese of Greensburg in supporting the proposed marriage amendment for Pennsylvania.

Daniel Merkovsky

For every such letter published, we must have multiple contacts with our elected officials and the general public.  We need people to understand our issues and our lives and our stories. 

Contact you senator today.  You have to do it before Monday.  It will take just a few moments of your time. 

Now I'm going to enjoy a few chuckles at the expense of Mr. Merkovsky's oblivion with regard to marriage as an economic pact. 



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