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View Article  HUD did good

post to come on saturday on the recent reg changes at HUD and what they mean for folks here in Pgh and Allegheny County.  also makes the push for statewide nondiscrimination HB 300 soooo important for affordable housing. 

 

View Article  Yuma, Arizona Mayor doesn't want limp wristed soldiers

from hrc comes a humbling story ....

The Yuma Mayor doesn't think limp wristed men don't belong in the military. The first casualty of the Iraq War speaks out ...

These hateful words are absolutely inconsistent with the unbending physical and mental courage that I encountered among all of the men and women with whom I served, whether gay or straight. Many members in my unit knew I was gay ? and this simple truth never once came in the way of our ability to do our job. It didn?t stop Navy corpsman Brian Alaniz from heroically coming to my aid after I stepped on a landmine, earning me the dubious distinction of being the first casualty in the Iraq War. Minutes later, he would become the second casualty of the war. Since then, we have stood by each other ? literally ? as we learned to walk again with our new prosthetic legs.

Because of my injuries, my wrist might not be as strong as it once was, but my fidelity to this country and its founding ideals has never once wavered. Gay and lesbian service members have always fought to defend this country ? soon, we will be able to do so as equals. On the next Memorial Day, I ask Al Krieger to remember our sacrifices, too.

 

If you even consider going to Arizona, you are not invited to my summer soirees. 

View Article  Could hospitals soon be required to implement anti-discrimination policies

According to the HRC, yes.

According to the Human Rights Commission, the Joint Commission, the largest organization that accredits hospitals nationwide, announced recently that, in the future, all hospitals in America will need to have a non-discrimination policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Once the new rules are in place, "the horror stories" of loved ones being met with hostility at the worst of times and of people being denied care, will be a thing of the past, HRC President Joe Solmonese said.
This news coincides with a report the HRC released today, showing that among 200 of the nation's largest hospitals, 93 percent do not have fully-inclusive non-discrimination policies that protect all LGBT people

Interesting news, but compliance could take years and count on faith based hospitals opting out. 

You can help by contacting the Pennsylvania Hospital Association to encourage implementation. 

View Article  A must read on the failure of ENDA

Dr. Jillian Weiss is someone I admire greatly.  I've been in touch with her for months, trying my best to contribute to the passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act on the federal level.  I was part of the ground troops getting commitments from our local electeds and I've written about it quite a bit.

So it is sad to realize that it won't happen. Coming on the heels of the Dyke and Trans March, two groups disproportionately impacted be economic issues, its particularly disheartening.  Jillian has some insight as to what has gone so wrong.

Gay Inc. made a decision in the early 2000's to move away from targeting traditional civil rights movement discrimination, and concentrate almost exclusively on marriage equality via the "good as you" theme. I believe the thinking was that the campaign for marriage equality would drag the rest along in its wake.

That agenda came from our advocacy leaders, who live in an environment insulated from most LGBT people in terms of economics, education and culture. But most LGBT people are also not necessarily prepared to do such analysis in understanding why their advocacy leaders would push them into marriage equality as the number one issue.

Discrimination was moved way down the list in the hierarchy. It was never abandoned, but it limped along.

Marriage equality as a lead issue has proved largely a bust, having been stripped away from Americans in 31 states, in every single state in which it has been placed on the ballot. It has been quietly rotated out for a while, while we lick our wounds and regroup. But the philosophy behind it, the "good as you" philosophy, has not changed.

ENDA, and other non-discrimination measures do not fit with the world-view of "good as you." It requires making the argument that we are victims of oppression, and require liberation, something which I think most gay leaders do not feel.

You really need to read the whole thing to grasp the magnitude of the analysis.  It reminds me of Senator Daylin Leach's decision to move ahead with marriage legislation when a group of us practically begged him to take up the Senate version of HB 300.  He was not interested because his people out east thought marriage was the better issue.  That was just sad.

Gay Inc has taken some hits, especially from the grassroots groups across the nation. Where Pittsburgh falls in this regard is open to debate. A lot of power and influence is vested in a few hands, but I don't see the grassroots folks agitating for access. The divide is wide.  That leaves a lot of room for continued misunderstanding and failure to coalesce. 

I strongly encourage you to read Jillian's piece.  We need to wrestle with these issues locally.  And if the House does take action, we need to pay close attention to Jason Altmire.

View Article  Pittsburgh Dyke March 2010: The Fifth Year

This was one of my favorite LGBTQ events of all time. It was joyful, fierce, unified and humbling to wind our way through Bloomfield yesterday afternoon. 

The event kicked off with a call to action from Dykes on Bikes founder, Miranda Vey.  She uses the term "queer patriot" to describe the power within dykes and other LGBT persons to claim their rightful place in society at large as well as the local gay hierarchy. I've heard Miranda speak before and she is very open as a transwoman to name the privilege she took for granted as a white man before she began transitioning.  She's not afraid to talk about it and she's not intimidated in the least to turn around and call out those who continue to use it to hold down women, queers and other disenfranchised communities.

Miranda has been a longtime supporter of this event, helping to raise funds and bringing the dykes on their bikes to protect the march route when the police failed to show up.  She is a dyke hero, a powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with.

The march kicked off a few minutes before 3 PM and wound its way through Bloomfield, attracting a signifcant degree of attention from residents and business patrons alike.  People took pictures, video and simply stood watching as this colorful, eclectic group of women strode through the streets with signs, banners and a fierce determination to demand they be seen. 

I intentionally monitored the reacton along the sidewalks and it was a mixture of "you go girls" and amusement.  There was very little animosity with the sad exception of a ten year old child screaming "Git out of here yinz bitches." I think most people had no idea what was going on other than a group of very interestingly clad gay women were suddenly visible in a way Bloomfield never experienced.  (There were plenty of signs though).

And isn't that the point? Visibility?  Pittsburgh Pridefest "shuts down" Liberty Avenue Downtown to commemorate and celebrate Prde so how fitting that the dykes kick it off further up that very street. 

Something else was new this year.  The Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee and Councilman Bill Peduto's office  worked with the Department of Public Safety to ensure the City Police were out in full force, after four years of major failure to provide this essential service.  There were more than five cars and plenty of officers.  

I spoke for awhile with the Officer in charge and he was pleased with how smoothly things went. Aside from a few folks disgruntled by bus delays and the need to address some unruly youth, the police for the most part enjoyed the march with smiles.  He gave me some tips on how to tighten things up next year, but admitted that these snafus happen with all sorts of events.  It was all good from their point of view. In fact, in response to one person yelling at us, an officer responded "It is the First Amendment, buddy."

I also want to give a shout out to the YWCA and Adaggio Health which approached the march organizers with an offer to provide free water and had some LGBT health information available.  I spoke with a very nice woman who politely asked me to write about the Adaggio/GLCC health services. I will certainly do so because I really appreciate their support.  Water for a march is a good idea.  Hopefully, other LGBT organizations find organic ways to get involved next year.

Another shout out to Eric from the ACLU of PA.  Dyke decorum asks that men and straight women walk along the side in solidarity so Erin monitored the whole route because the ACLU cares about these things. 

There is some misinformation floating around. The streets were closed at 2, the march kicked off at 3 and that happens all the time -- both the police and my City sources says street closures are not an exact science and I personally witnessed this happen with Pride year after year in the past.  Yes, it is frustrating, but Bloomfield did not self-implode because of an hour and a half street closure.  It would have been great had these concerned folks gotten involved last year when a Seven-Up truck almost mowed down a dyke family because the police did NOT close streets. 

Others have been claiming the dykes never applied for permits in the past. That's not true.  Ledcat and I both saw the permits.  I had another homophobic encounter with the Special Events office for a different LGBTQ event. That's one reason I took this issue right to the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee -- it is a systemic issue, not an anomaly.  And that worked. Things improved dramatically and the remaining bumps will be tackled next year. 

One interesting side note. One of the police officers asked Ledcat why women need a separate march.  She and some friends talked with him about the need for women to be visible in the gay community and he immediately "got it" as it relates to women in the general society - he began talking about how women are paid less and treated differently.  The quintessential "a ha" moment that would not have happened if this burly white middle aged police officer wasn't working at the Dyke March.

Voila!

 

More Dyke March 2010 photos on my Facebook page.

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

As I review this, I see a lot of police references. I think this was a critical part of the visibility piece -- the police attending and their overall positive response, as well as their engagement in conversation with the participants.  I can attest that it felt much better to march with the route secured than it has in the past when you were never quite sure what was going to happen with passing cars. And I do believe that the police presence sent a message to Bloomfield that this was an important march, an important part of Pittsburgh life. 

Once again, congrats to the Dyke and Trans March organizing committee.  Looking forward to next year ...

View Article  Pgh Dyke March 2010

I am tired after a long day so I'll save my Dyke March 2010 reflections for Sunday.

I have posted photos on my Facebook page if you'd like to check them out.

Overall, the event was great. The move to Bloomfield was genius for visibility ... tons of people came out on the streets and stoops to watch us march by.  There were very few problems and a good job on the part of the Pittsburgh Police.

There is some inaccurate information floating around about street closures and so forth. I submitted the permit and spoke with the officer in charge so I will clarify tomorrow.  Trust me that Bloomfield's grid was not permanently destroyed by dyke visibility.

Congrats to Eli Kuti, Miranda Vey and the dozens of volunteers who organized a great event.  Best.Dyke.March.Ever. 

View Article  Pittsburgh's Dyke March - Today! Who Will Be There?

 

Well, today is the day.  This afternoon at say 2:45 PM, we'll see if our "fierce allies" in City Hall were able to finally resolve the issue of police protecton and allow women who don't typically attend fundraisers and public meetings the safety to exercise their first amendment rights?

Don't get me wrong -- I had responses when I reached out, but not a single leader offered to attend in solidarity with these women.  Not to me at least.  They just kept telling me to call if there's a problem.  Making sure the police do their jobs is great, but it is really sad that NO ONE thinks it worth an hour of their time to show solidarity for victims of Pittsburgh bureacratic incompetence and homophobia.

Maybe I'll be wrong and they'll show.  I'll let you know. 

View Article  Why my Dan Onorato counter remains ...

While I am heartened to learn about the recommendations of the Human Relations Commission to extend domestic partner benefits to Allegheny County employees,  I must admit wondering what the next hurdle will be? 

I don't enjoy being cynical on this topic.  My heart feels for the employees left in limbo because the process has taken six + years so perhaps I'm too quick to think the County Personnel Director could have lunch with the City Personnel Director and figure the basics out.  I know unions, rules, negotiatons, blah, blah, blah.  Still, as the recommendations point out ... both the City and the Public Schools overcame those obstacles so yeah, let's stop with the excuses.

I know we have to elect Dan Onorato to save the Commonwealth from uber-crazy and hope the resulting shift right won't roll the liberals into New Jersey.  Still, we don't have to quietly into the good night.  We have an equally important race to focus on federally and there are only so many LGBTQ campaign donations to go around. 

There's a clear benefit to extending these benefits over the summer -- a big progressive bump at Labor Day. What could be the reason for more delays?  Would it really impact the moderate voter?  Would they care?  Would someone in the T see it as a homosexual lobby issue?

I say give the campaign a call and ask when the health care for same sex families employed by the County will be resolved.  That's the day you put on your bumper sticker and write your check.  It really doesn't have to be complicated. 

(412) 281-5678
info@voteonorato.com

Plus, I'd really like to start counting how long it will take Governor Onorato to help pass HB 300.  :-)

View Article  Letters! We love letters!

As always, I get very excited when folks write about stuff in the PG letters section.  Average folks exercising their First Amendment muscles ... what better way to start a Saturday!

This one made me snort my coffee:

Bring in his brother

Regarding Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's 311 line:

It's annoying that we, Pittsburgh taxpayers, must wait and hear numerous delays when one desires to report a situation to this help line.

I suggest the mayor give his brother Adam a job in the call center, and then maybe the wait will not be so long.

THERESA CIOLLI

sdf

View Article  Another step toward domestic partner benefits for Allegheny County employees

Yesterday, the Allegheny County Human Relations Commission made a formal recommendation that Allegheny County provide domestic partner benefits to County employees ...

Whereas the City of Pittsburgh has made domestic partner health benefits available to its employees for approximately a decade, and,

Whereas in recent years benefits of this nature have been made available by other public employers including the Pittsburgh School District, Pennsylvania?s Court System, and many colleges and universities;

It is hereby resolved that the Commission recommends that Allegheny County take steps to make domestic partner benefits available to its employees.

This is a fairly impressive recommendation given that this was the second meeting of this all-volunteer body.  They didn't really have to look around for evidence that this is the right AND economically sound thing to do (my interpretation).

The nuts and bolts are appropriately left to the Personnel Department. That shouldn't be too complicated as the recommendation points directly to several other entities that have made it work. 

From Slag Heap

While there was some discussion of tax issues -- under federal law, benefits for an unmarried partner count as taxable wages -- McGough says, "The city found ways to deal with that years ago."

Yes, this is a non-issue on the County level.  It sucks that we pay taxes on health insurance that other people get for free, but it is up to the employee to do that cost-benefit analysis.  The proper response would be to lobby the federal goverment to address this unfair taxation.  UNFAIR TAXATION is the issue, not denial of health insurance. 

I'm so pleased the HRC turned this around quickly. My personal opinion, as you may recall, was that Onorato was using this as a stalling tactic for some reason.  But it is done, we know this can happen, should happen and now -- let's make it happen.  Before November, if you please.

The HRC is moving on to tackling discrimination issues. 

 

 

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