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View Article  Doug Shields Introduces "Will of Council" in support of statewide LGBT discrimination protections

Just got word that City Council President Doug Shields will introduce a "Will of the Council" on Tuesday that will express the Council's support of HB 1400 which, along with SB 761, will amend the PA Human Relations Act to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" as protected classes.

From Council President Shields' statement:

The legislation will amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to include anti-discrimination language that reflects the same anti-discriminatory language the City of Pittsburgh passed into law (Applicable Code attached as amended by Ord. 20-1992, eff. 5-28-92; Am. Ord. 3-1997, eff. 2-7-97).  Our passage of this bill will support Pittsburgh's State delegation in their efforts guarantee the same equal protection o ur City residents have across Pennsylvania .

This is an important gesture and one that deserves a unanimous vote.  Please pick up your phone and ask your City Council Representative to support this Will of Council. 

I am very pleased that my State Rep (Chelsa Wagner) and State Senator (Wayne Fontana) are sponsoring the state legislation.  I hope my City Councilwoman, Tonya Payne, votes in support of this legislation.

People shouldn't be denied employment or housing because they are gay or they don't conform to gender normative behavior.  This is pretty basic stuff and Pittsburgh's been ahead of the curve for over a decade. 

Here's the resolution:

Will of Council in support of Pennsylvania State House bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761, The Statewide LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill


WHEREAS, current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog, but not sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; and


WHEREAS, House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, thereby providing basic protection to ensure fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians; and


WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh already protects its residents against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression through local ordinance passed almost two decades ago; and


WHEREAS, twenty states, including the neighboring states of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York already have laws protecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from discrimination, and thirteen states also prohibit discrimination against transgender people through legislation or case law; and


WHEREAS, 462 Fortune 500 companies, including all 27 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Pennsylvania, prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation, in recognition of the fact that attracting and retaining the best workers is critical, and that employers with a reputation for respecting diversity are at a competitive advantage with these protections; and


WHEREAS, HB 1400/SB 761 has the support of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Realtors Association, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as 70% of Pennsylvania voters surveyed in a November 2007 poll of likely voters conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research; and


WHEREAS, the prime sponsor of HB 1400 is Rep. Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh, who is joined in supporting the legislation by at least 70 cosponsors, including at least 14 other state representatives from southwestern Pennsylvania;


WHEREAS, the identical Senate bill, SB 761, has at least 22 cosponsors including six Senators representing Allegheny County;


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Pittsburgh City Council calls upon the Pittsburgh delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support the passage of HB 1400/SB 761 at the earliest opportunity; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution shall be transmitted to the Mayor of Pittsburgh, to all members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and to the Governor of Pennsylvania.

A shout out to Shields' Chief of Staff, Selena Schmidt, for her wonkish skills in helping me find the "gender identity and gender expression" phrasing in the City Code. 

View Article  LGBT Family Diversity Festival
View Article  City Paper: nice write up on PrideFest changes

This week's City Paper advises readers on recent changes in local PrideFest activities, including new management, a new location and the expansion to a week-long event.  As we reported earlier, the Delta Foundation is sponsoring a community meeting to unveil the proposed changes and generate community investment in the larger effort (Tuesday, February 5, 7-9 pm - follow the link for more details).

The CP article is a nice update, especially for straight allies who may not be aware of the changes. 

I'm looking forward to the meeting. 

View Article  Al Gore: Yes, on Gay Marriage Equality



I think it's wrong for the government to discriminate against people because of a person's sexual orientation. I think that gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women to make contracts, have hospital visiting rights, and join together in marriage. I don't understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage to allow it for gays and lesbians. Shouldn't we be promoting the kind of faithfulness and loyalty to one partner regardless of sexual orientation? Because if we don't do that, then to that extent  you are promoting promiscuity and promoting all the problems that can result from promiscuity. And the loyalty and love that people feel for one another when they fall in love ought to be celebrated and encouraged and shouldn't be prevented by any form of discrimination in the law.

h/t Pam's House Blend

View Article  PA Marriage Protection Amendment - Again

It's back.  Sigh.  From Equality Advocates:


On January 17, 2008, Pennsylvania State Senators started working to pass a so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman, as well as prohibit civil unions and potentially more.

Please take a moment to call and e-mail your Senator and give a voice to the millions of Pennsylvanians who oppose writing discrimination into our State Constitution. To find your State Senator's contact information, click here.

In 2006, Equality Advocates, with the help of countless LGBT Pennsylvanians and allies across the state, defeated the attempt to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution. This over-reaching amendment would have prohibited relationship recognition for all unmarried couples in the state.

Please act now to help ensure fairness for all Pennsylvanians!

A gay visitor (Anthony M. Brown) to Pittsburgh (Greensburg) took a few minutes to share his thoughts with the Tribune Review.

We don't want anything more than what all other committed couples have: the tax, health, pension, visitation and death protections that are a part of marriage. These are not special rights. They are protections offered by the government, not the Catholic Church.

Anthony, thanks for making time to share your thoughts.  Another quarter heard from is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania where Diane Gramley was stomping her faith-clad furry boots because "homosexual organizations" got the jump on her in broadcasting this legislative flurry.  Here's an interesting claim:

Pennsylvania?s primary election is April 22nd.  Are you registered to vote?  The last day to register is March 24th.  An important fact mentioned by David Barton during my interview with him:  over 90% of homosexual men and lesbians voted in 2006, while 30 million Christians stayed home! 

As always, Diane asks for your money but not your prayers.

This was an ugly victory last time around in 2006 and a clear example of social conservative Democratic values clashing with the interests and civil rights of the entire LGBT community.   Here's how the last round of elected officials voted on the marriage amendment.  Many of those in the House took the straightforward coward's way of voting in favor of amending the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.  The Senate did this elaborate dance of "yes, I am, no I am not" switcheroos so they could vote against the "concept" while not having to deal with a pro-homo vote. 

Don't let them get the jump on us.  Contact your Senator today and ask her/him to oppose amending hate into our Constitution.

View Article  I bet you are as tired of this refrain as me.

MSNBC picked up a little blurb on plans to make Pittsburgh a gay tourist mecca.  gay and lesbian, excuse me.

Of course, the story quotes two white gay male business owners.  Both of whom are nice enough fellows and do good things.  But if I were an out of town lesbian picking a spot to drop my travel $$, I might like to see that women are in leadership positions, too.  The Vice-Chair of the GLCC is a woman.  Why not quote her? There are several local businesses owned by women who would love to get some women (and men) tourist dollars.  A researcher at Pitt is a transwoman with a significant presence on the national level in her field and in the trans community. 

Nothing personal against these particular gentleman. I understand they have two slots open on their board of directors and here's hoping they put diversity high on the list of attributes. Filling both slots with talented, experienced individuals that don't look like the traditional Pittsburgh bar owner will go a long way in sending a message both internally and externally about the value men in our community have for women, queers of color, bisexual men and women, transgender men and women, and so forth. 

If we are going to change the perception that Pittsburgh is not a progressive or modern city, we must start right here and make changes in how we share power and leadership.  Sharing the power is the key to a true partnership. 

Here's hoping for a new refrain.

View Article  Blog For Choice 2008: Why It Is Important to Vote Pro-Choice

I am pro-choice.  Tuesday is the 35th Anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision and bloggers throughout the nation are working to raise the profile of reproductive choice vis a vis Blog for Choice 2008.

My right to make decisions about my reproductive health is not something I take lightly.  While only three when Roe was decided, most of my adult years have been defined by an increasing assault on this personal freedom in the name of an undefined "fetus" which has become a personless poster-child for an agenda determined to beat women back into an age of suppression and repression.

I have many friends who identify as pro-life.  They pray for unborn children and march to restrict access to abortion.  Some fervently believe the rhetoric they are spoon fed by patriarchal structures that historically hold women in a subservient positions (hello, Catholic Church).  Some honestly think it is about babies.  Most don't give a damn about those babies once they exit the birth canal, particularly if they are born into families that are poor, of color, single, gay, young or in some other aberration from the mythological "traditional family."  Or if those babies suck up tax dollars.

My point is that there are many people who buy into this mythological assault on unborn children.  Hence, the need for those of us who see through this fairy tale to hold the line, politically and legislatively.

I confess that my record is not perfect. I voted for Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat, to oust woman and homo hater Rick Santorum.  But choice is important to me.

I applaud creativity.  Chris Potter, editor extraordinaire of the City Paper, inspired many of us with his response to the 2007 WDUQ/Duquesne University/Planned Parenthood debacle.

In 2003, the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Pittsburgh earned my respect when they stood up to the Pittsburgh Tavern Guild who refused them entrance to distribute slate cards that did not endorse openly anti-choice Gene Riccardi.  The Tavern Guild forever lost respect in my eyes for their heavy handed, self-serving maneuver as well as the clear illustration that issues that impact women (and our autonomy) came in second place to issues that impact their bottom line and/or political connections.  Shame on them. 

Pittsburgh recently elected an anti-choice Democrat as our Mayor for the next two years.  His only vote related to reproductive freedom was against the Bubble Zone, a law that protects women from abusive protests at clinics.  Luke gave no explanation for his vote.

Western Pennsylvania is a Democratic town with a big Catholic social conservative twist.  We cannot afford to take lightly when movers and shakers in our town impose an anti-choice mindset on the rest of us, be they bastions of intellectual freedom or business owners, much less 27 year old elected officials.  Our bodies are not up for barter.  Our choices are not up for debate. 

Last year, I blogged about the hypocrisy of those on the other side.  This year, I believe it is imperative that we examine the support of our allies right here in Pittsburgh - a town of staunch Democrats and staunch Catholics.  A town where the largest Presbyterian Church in town voted themselves off the island to join a more conservative communion.  A town with one (1) local female talk show host who is also the only local liberal talk show host. 

What does this have to do with voting pro-choice?  Well, that nice young man who you wanted to have a chance as Mayor is going to someday set his sites on an elected position where he votes on more than bubble ordinances.  Those business owners who put political allies ahead of the lives of half of their own community are now financially supporting that nice young man.  Can you win a statewide seat on an anti-choice ticket?  Ask Bob Casey.  I'd prefer not to be in a position of Casey v Santorum anytime soon.

My point is that we must pay attention to the local situation as well as the state and federal situations.  My point is that we includes the women and men of the LGBT community.  My point is that when the next generation of local Democratic leadership clings to a Catholic-fused political reality (no civil unions, no birth control, no bubble zone, etc) AND the next generation of local gay leadership continues to fund that guy ... women need to pay attention. We need to sit down with these men and make sure they understand why choice impacts every single woman in our community. 

It is important to vote pro-choice. It is important to read the questionairres distributed by the Gertrude Stein Club and the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and pay attention to the questions about choice.  It is important that the questions be asked. 

We are not making progress or moving forward with a 27 year old Mayor that is anti-choice and anti-civil union.  It is incumbent on us to educate him and ourselves on the implications for our lives if reproductive choice continues to erode under the relentless assault from those who would happily impose their value systems on our bodies.

View Article  Legislative/Political Stuff You Should Know

From Equality Advocates:  (To do something, click here).

On January 17, 2008, Pennsylvania State Senators started working to pass a so-called Marriage Protection Amendment that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman and prohibit civil unions and potentially more.

Please take a moment to call and e-mail your Senator and give a voice to the millions of Pennsylvanians who oppose writing discrimination into our State Constitution. To find your State Senator's contact information, visit http://equalitypa.org and click on the link to Locate Your Legislators.

In 2006, Equality Advocates, with the help of countless LGBT Pennsylvanians and allies across the state, defeated the attempt to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution. This over-reaching amendment would have prohibited relationship recognition for all unmarried couples in the state.

Please act now to help ensure fairness for all Pennsylvanians!

Additionally, if you are interested in becoming more involved to help defeat this legislation, and pass pro-LGBT legislation in Pennsylvania, please e-mail Jake at jkaskey@equalitypa.org.

Thank you and with your continued support we will defeat this amendment once again!

Here's some cheery polling data:

Polling data released by Equality Advocates Pennsylvania this November shows that voters across Pennsylvania overwhelming support the current LGBT non-discrimination bill being considered in Harrisburg.

Seventy-one percent of voters support the current legislation (House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761) prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Additionally, eighty-six percent believed that there should be workplace equality for LGBT people, eighty-four percent supported laws prohibiting LGBT discrimination in housing and eighty-nine percent favored equal access to public accommodations.

Obama on homophobia. h/t Pam's House Blend. (she has the video posted).

For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man.  And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean.  If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community.  For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party.  It is played out on television.  It is sensationalized by the media.  And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

I probably should pull this out for a separate thread, but I gotta get some Ledcat-approved work done tonight. 

This is the inverse of the conversation that I have never heard in Pittsburgh no matter how many community forums I've attended or leadership trainings I've participated in or celebrations I've celebrated --- why do we scorn and ignore our gay brothers and sisters of color?  I had a chat recently with someone about some openings for leadership and the value of actively seeking to diversify the membership.  The response fell into the worn out refrain of "why don't they come to us?" 

I've said before that the most diverse segment of our community is the under 30 crowd.  Diverse in terms of race, gender, queer identity, etc.  We could learn a lot from that group and I'm rather thankful that I'll be around as they move into the leadership roles -- or create their own. 

Just my $.02.  It comes to mind whenever I hear the overly simplistic assessments of the intersection of race and gender in the Democratic primary campaigns.  I hear a lot of local homos bitching and moaning about homophobia in the African-American community, but very little effort to stretch our own comfort zones out to get more involved in the local black gay community. 

You should bookmark Pam's blog.  She and her compatriots explore these themes on a regular basis. I don't have any answers, but I do like to keep bringing up the question. 

View Article  L Word Party Sunday Night

Did you know the Firehouse Lounge was lesbian-friendly?  I never thought about it one way or another.  My class president was considering it for our 20th year reunion, but we went another direction.  Maybe that's too bad ...anyway, if you want to hang out and watch the L-word, maybe this is an option.  Let me know what it is like. 

h/t to correspondent localmotionpgh

View Article  Huckabee: Gay Marriage =s Bestiality

Just in case you thought Christian fringe nutjob Mike Huckabee has any redeeming qualities, here he is in an interview with beliefnet....

Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.
Well, I don?t think that?s a radical view to say we?re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we?re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what?s been historic.

That's pretty straightforward ... changing the definition of marriage to include two men or two women is tantamount to a man and animal.  There's none of that gay marriage opens the door to man on dog marriage logic that Santorum espoused.  Nope, Huckabee makes a much more straightforward equivalent. 

Sigh.  Not that it really makes any difference. 

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