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View Article  ENDA - Stop and think, you know this one

If you use the Google blog search on the federal legislation known as ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), you'll see a fair amount of information, outrage and distortion of facts on all sides of the debate. 

The truth is that there is a very real opportunity to pass federal legislation that would protect gay Americans in their jobs.  It wouldn't matter if you live in Pittsburgh, Ross Township or Cranberry Township - you would be protected by the full force of federal law.  This is big.  Federal recognition of LGBT civil rights paves the way for greater economic opportunities for our entire community. It opens the door to more domestic partner benefits, more visibility in the workplace and more equality.  Not full equality, but enough of it that its worth fighting to obtain. 

Let me share with you information from trusted inside sources.

In the House of Representatives, the bill should move to a floor vote soon.  Here's a link to a great spreadsheet that is kept updated on all things related to ENDA and the House.  There are 221 Yes votes, 182 No votes and 27 unconfirmed votes.  It is possible that an inclusive ENDA will pass in the House. 

The Senate is a different matter.  Here is that spreadsheet. Today, I was informed that there are 55 Yes votes and 9 possible Yes votes.  That's very close and could make all the difference. That's an uphill battle.

Something to note.  We are much closer to passing an inclusive ENDA now than ever before.  The non-inclusive version (sometimes referred to as SPLENDA) wasn't acceptable and it didn't pass anyway. 

Before I delve into what you can do to tip the scales towards equality, let me remind you of what our opponents will be pushing.

1. The bathroom argument.  We heard this at the Steel City Stonewall Endorsement when a candidate for State House said he might support HB 300 except for some concerns. The fact that he didn't trouble himself to get educated by Frankel's team before coming to the endorsement suggests he thinks we are fools. That we believe there might be legitimate reasons to think cross-dressing men are going to invade women's bathrooms and dressing rooms across the nation en masse as soon as these bills would be signed.  If someone can come to a gay endorsement meeting and not "get" this hysterical nonsense for the hysterical nonsense that it is, we have a lot of educating to do.  Since he won the endorsement, we better do it soon.

And we need to be prepared for this tired, but effective tactic to be bandied about, especially when they want us to throw our transsisters and brothers under the bus to get a diluted SPLENDA passed so some of us get more equal. 

2. Religious Liberty.  ENDA does not mean faith communities have to make the slightest change to their institutions and practices, unless they receive federal funding. No anti-gay Baptist ministry is going to be forced to hire gay choir directors.  This is another attempt to derail the conversation by pitting LGBT rights against religious rights.  That's untrue. This is about ending discrimination against a class of people, not a restriction on another group's liberty.  But it works.  It scares people. 

These people are bearing false witness.  There is simply no evidence to back up these allegations. The HRC Corporate Equality Index shows 305 corporations that have adopted some measure of inclusion in their business practices and they seem to be doing fine.

So, how can you step up? 

In the Senate, we are good.  Both Casey and Specter are co-sponsoring the legislation. So a simple thank you call or email to them will do nicely.

In the House, well you aren't going to be surprised.  Unconfirmed votes are Jason Altmire and Kathy Dahlkemper. However, both of these individuals voted FOR Hate Crimes protections so there is reason to believe they can be moved.  It certainly is worth a few minutes of your time to try. 

Jason represents portions of six counties. He's going to get intense pressure from the right wing, especially with the election coming up.  It is important that you who live in his district get your message about economic development on his desk. This is about your ability to put food on the table for your family. 

The Aliquippa Office is the best place to direct your calls: 724-378-0928. You can email him at this link.

Kathy Dahlkemper represents 7 counties in the Northwestern portion of the Commonwealth. Hello, Erie.  She has a toll free number 1-877-528-4948 and an email form at this link.

This doesn't have to be hard.  Simply write down your bullet points.  When you make the call/send the email, provide your contact information so they know you live in the district.  Then make your case. Adding a personal touch is important.  That could be identifying yourself as a person of faith or referencing a family member who has lost a job or been denied a job because of their identity as LGBT.  Anything that helps unpack those awfu, but powerful, untruths will help. 

If the bathroom tactic makes you roll your eyes, please find someone living in these districts to make these calls. 

View Article  Joe Hoeffel endorsed by Philadelphia LGBT Stonewall chapter

Congratulations to Joe Hoeffel for receiving the endorsement of the Liberty City Democrats, the Philadelphia LGBT Stonewall chapter to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania. 

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the whole damn race is up in the air. Nearly half of Democratic Pennsylvania is undecided. 

I'm already sick of the ads although I love Anthony Williams throwing a cardboard box into a trash can.  I know it is meant for dramatic effect, but all I could think -- don't they have recycling laws in Philadelphia? Is he going to dump the Rendell legacy and his House majority into the trash can or is he going to reduce, reuse and recycle the Democratic party?  See, it works as an analogy! 

(Lo and behold, they not only have laws, but a REWARD system for recycling.)

BTW, Montgomery County has a great recycling page, too.

Allegheny County recycling website?  Let's just say that it is highly unlikely anyone would even think about recycling Anthony Williams' box.  Sigh. 

So chalk one up for the gay community AND the recycling community in support of Joe Hoeffel.

View Article  Save the Date: Pittsburgh's Dyke March 2010

Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 5, 2010 which will be the date of Pittsburgh's 5th Annual Dyke March.  The location will still be in Oakland and organizers have fabulous plans for the ultimate grassroots picnic (get it?) and post-march party.

What's is a dyke march?

Dyke March is a mostly lesbian-led and inclusive gathering and protest march much like the original gay pride parades and marches. They usually occur the Friday or Saturday before LGBT pride parades and larger metropolitan areas have related events (parties, benefits, dances) both before and after the event to further develop community often targeting specific community segments (older women, bar events, arts, parenting groups, etc.) The purpose of a Dyke March is to increase lesbian visibility and activism and they have grown to be more inclusive of all women-loving-women regardless of labels as well as bisexuals, intersex and transgender persons.

It is one of the most diverse and empowering queer events in Pittsburgh.  Women from across the spectrum are there -- young high school women, women from "back in the day", women of color, bikers, bicyclists, parents with kids in strollers, lovers, disabled women, poor, rich, tall, short, athletic, old, young ....  you name her and she was probably there.  Plus, plenty of men and allies of all genders marching alongside. 

The best things, and things most feared by the powers that be, are the increasing visibility and power of women in the LGBTQ community.  I think the Dyke March has done more to advance both visibility and power than any other organized event.

The Dyke March is not in any type of competition or power struggle with Pride events.  March organizers have a Pride float in the parade and come to the festival.  You can absolutely support both with no hesitation. 

Here's a PghLesbian.Com Herstory of the Dyke March in Pittsburgh.

2006 - Pittsburgh's First Dyke March took place in Oakland.  It was created as an act of visibility and the turnout was great. I think participating in that march was one of my best political memories.  I had no idea who most of the women were and that really opened my eyes to the broad spectrum of what it means to be a dyke.

2007 - This year, the March  moved to July and we loved the poster. I stirred up a bit of controversy (imagine) when I appeared on John McIntire's talk show on the Man Station to talk about the march. I learned quite a bit about myself from those conversations and had to really take a step back and examine things like my privilege and my reason for jumping on the Dyke March bandwagon.  The march itself carried on!

2008 - The Delta Foundation approached the Dyke March organizers about making the march an official part of PrideFest.  That didn't go well. I'm not sure Delta really understood (or understands now) the underlying principles of dyke marches. I hope, one day soon, they will ask. Fortunately, the Lambda Foundation stepped in with a last minute grant and the march proceeded downtown with some (ahem) issues.  Betty Hill gave a rousing speech. 

2009 - The Dyke March returned to Oakland.  Things turned unpleasant when the police refused to protect the marchers, but the women persevered.  It was another exhilerating event that I truly enjoyed. 

Any link will show the recurring issue -- the Department of Public Safety.  From permits to police protection, they have dropped the ball on all fronts.  Four years of dropping the ball begins to look like a systemic pattern of discrimination.  If the ACLU were to investigate this and other LGBT events requiring permits without large payments, what would they find? I had tremendous issues with the Special Events people over an unrelated LGBT event. 

The good news is that the Mayor's Office has become involved thanks to the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee.  Other heavy hitters, including elected officials on multiple levels, are paying attention and willing to step in to ensure that visibility and voices are not lost because of bureaucratic bungling. 

There are quite a few folks stepping up to support the women who organize and participate in the dyke march.  They've worked hard to get this tradition going and deserve women who have access to resources to step in and help their sisters. 

June 5 could possibly be the most political moment of the entire month of Pride by the simple fact of so many awesome dykes gathering in one place.  You should definitely check it out --- there really is room for everyone. 

View Article  Stop saying Jane Orie is a lesbian

It is the second thing people ask me after making the requisite joke about her hair/makeup.  Frankly, I'm amazed (read: disappointed) at how catty us feminists can be when it comes to the appearances of women who are Republican.

But I digress. 

I don't care if Jane Orie is a lesbian. Stop foisting the unappealing zealots into our tribe.  Stop with the family values folks who get caught at gay clubs. Stop with the self-loathing ex-gays.  Stop with the .... wait a minute.  It is actually okay if these people are gay, even if they are struggling to accept or identify.

But when well-intentioned liberals whisper "Well, you know she's an unmarried woman of a certain age so she must be a lesbian" it doesn't make it OKAY because she's a conservative Republican.  It is still offensive.  It feeds right into the furor that being gay is something you keep secret, not to mention that horrible state of affairs of being a woman without a man (and a ring).

Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of exposing hypocrisy.  Jane Orie does not have a gay-positive voting record, but to expose something you need more than innuendo and impending spinsterhood for God's sake.  And sure as people like to search for themselves in "the Google" and end up here, plenty of folks are going to search for dirt on Jane anyway and end up at this slap-in-your-face post.  Good.  Welcome. 

Here's what I wonder. In the race for Supreme Court, how many Western Pennsylvania Democrats supported Joan Orie Melvin rather than an Eastern Pennsylvania liberal? I wonder if Mr. Potter might explore that a little bit ...how "invested" were Jack Wagner, Dan Onorato, Luke Ravenstahl, Wayne Fontana, Jay Costa, etc. in the Jack Panella campaign.  I guess I need to look into that a little bit.  Did our Dems do right by us in that race?  Could we have been spared the three Orie circus and focus on issues like redistricting and gay divorces and so forth?

Seriously. Enough with the woman bashing.  Her actions speak for themselves.  We don't need to go there. 

View Article  Catching up with the Trib: GLSEN bashing

Guest columnist Mary Grabar doesn't like new school curricula that teach kids coping skills.  While opinining about this in the Tribune Review, she just can't resist a full body slam of GLSEN - the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

While most people would consider an activist like Kevin Jennings, who founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which encouraged children to engage in homosexual activity (sometimes with adults), a menace, those attending the third annual Conference on Conflict Resolution Education at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio gave Jennings a warm welcome.

Jennings is the assistant deputy secretary of education in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. He's better known, non-ironically, as the "safe schools czar." He spoke about the Department of Education's pilot program "Successful, Safe and Healthy Students."

Yes, GLSEN is a menace for helping educate and empower children about tolerance diversity and self esteem.  Whatever.  But why does the Trib insist on publishing drivel that GLSEN encouraged kids to engage in sex with adults?  Hello?  This is the typical wingnut stirring up fear using dreadful accusations that are simply unacceptable.  Why does the Trib publish this awful stuff? Because it drives ad revenue.  Shame.

The Trib also has some Rx information for the Obama Administration which has "alienated" the gay and lesbian population.  That's an understatement.

Pat Robertson blames the Catholic sex-abuse history AND media coverage on the homosexual agenda.

As the Catholic League's Bill Donahue relates, 80 percent of the victims of priestly abuse have been males and "most of the molesters gays."

And as The Times' Richard Berke blurted to the Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association 10 years ago, often, "three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals."

Is there perhaps a conflict of interest at The New York Times when covering a traditionalist Catholic pope?

Ah, the Trib.  They actually report well on Pittsburgh LGBT stories, but run the most ridiculous extreme haters in the op/ed section.  But it is good to stay in touch with what the second largest newspaper in the region is printing as "news" regarding our community and reinforce the positive. 

View Article  Desserts for Democrats: Great Way to Get Involved
Save the Date: Sunday April 25 at 2 PM

This is a fun event with good conversation and, of course, great desserts. It is really empowering to have two women taking the lead with a political event.

The event is at 1343 Sharps Hill Road 15215.

Following up on my previous post, this is a good event for parents to dip their toes into local politics.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  The Meanest Town in America and a Foster Care Bill in Pennsylvania

Quite a disturing tale from Mississippi .... you remember Constance McMillen who just wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom.  Then came outrage, banishment, the ACLU, court cases, media frenzy ... and a fake prom.  Yes, the senior class held a "private prom" and sent Constance, her date and five special needs children to an alternative prom. Basically, they pulled a fast one on her. 

What is wrong with people?

Fulton, Mississippi has earned the title of the Meanest Town in America from all sorts of people, including Perez Hilton. From Pam's House Blend

To think that Fulton not only displayed rank homophobia, it raised the bar of evil by sending learning-disabled students to the fake prom, clearly labeling them "others." I challenge any of these "Christians" in Fulton to cite where in the bible Jesus teaches that the physically or mentally challenged deserve to be outcasts.

This social hellhole isn't even worthy of a boycott, since no gay person or ally would want to drive through this evil place to begin with. For Constance, one can only hope for a scholarship to get the hell out of there to attend college in an environment where she can thrive. Leave the evil behind, gain strength, knowledge and, should you want to challenge the hate, return to reclaim your space with others ready to fight homophobia in the darkest of places.

Fulton, Mississippi has earned its stripes as the cruelest town in America, by treating one of its young residents as a pariah for no good reason that the God they claim to worship can imagine. I do hope there is no adultery or fornication going on in Fulton. The bible had a lot to say about that.

There's a lot of LGBT news circulating, including DOJ action on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but somehow this latest twist in a story involving a 18 year old lesbian has caught the attention of people everywhere. 

It should. One of the reasons we struggle so hard to win our equal rights -- hate crimes protections, anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, marriage equality  -- is to protect our children.  We want queer youth to grow up into a world where they don't worry about their jobs, healthcare and access to swimming pools. We want them to fall in love, get married, have children and grow old together.  We want to protect them, nuture them and benefit ourselves from the amazing new world they create. 

There are the other kids, too.  The ones who went to Bigot Prom 2010.  These kids didn't organize a prom on their own.  They were led there by adults.  I'm betting more than a few of the kids caught up in this bigotry actually grasp the truth behind the situation and I hope they get out of Fulton, Mississippi to see the big world. 

Pam has a poll up to see if Constance herself should stay in Fulton.  Her "peers" have started an anti-Constance Facebook page.

Sigh.  This is one of the reasons I believe LGBT parents in Pittsburgh need to get more involved in advocacy and political.  These children matter to all of us, but that's a particular interest group who need to be drawn more actively into advocacy. 

On a related note, PA Representative Phyllis Mundy has introduced legislation to protect children in foster care.  The bill has been introduced.  Again.  This time, it does not include sexual orientation as a reason to protect children.

Mundy has introduced legislation in previous sessions in response to testimony she heard from former foster children eight years ago as a member of the Joint State Government Commission's Task Force on Services to Children and Youth. In its report, "Children and Youth Services Delivery System in Pennsylvania," the task force made recommendations to the General Assembly for preventing the abuse and neglect of the state's foster children.

"It is critical that we establish this act to assure that clear and concise information is made available on the basic protections for children in foster care in Pennsylvania," said Joan L. Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. "The lives of 31,000 vulnerable children will be positively impacted by this legislation and we support it wholeheartedly."

Mundy noted that the bill is not a reflection on the many wonderful foster families who provide loving care and support to vulnerable, at risk-children. Rather, she remarked that it is an acknowledgment that more can be done to prevent abuses that do occur despite the best intentions.

All good stuff.  I worked in the foster care system for three years and there are clearly reasons to take this step.  But other news is more disturbing.

But this time, she?s made some adjustments that may make the bill more popular, by omitting a section that would have protected children against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because many children are in foster care because of their sexual orientation, she says the clause would be relevant in the bill of rights. However, since she?s had trouble passing it with that inclusion, she says she?d ?rather pass an imperfect bill than no bill at all.?

I wrote about this before. Constance isn't in foster care and her family is standing behind her.  Who is standing behind the LGBT children in foster care?  The faith based foster care agencies like Catholic Charities which closed up shop rather than acknowledge gay marriages?  Imagine how they treat LGBT kids in their care. Maybe that's not the best example. 

Parents, I urge you to get involved.  Contact Steel-City Stonewall Democrats or follow them on Twitter @stonewallpgh   There's also PFLAG, GLSEN and the GLCC. 

According to my contacts at the ACLU, the prom situation has happened in Pittsburgh.  It has always been resolved with a letter from the ACLU, at least when someone called the ACLU. 

Think of all the kids who would love to take their same sex dates to their proms. Think of how many aren't able to turn to their parents for support (or their foster parents).  Or their grandmas or their friends. 

You can support these kids (and Constance) by following the links.  Sign the petitions.  Etc.

The PA House Bill has 42 co-sponsors including Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner. In 2008, the earlier version has 24 sponsors. 

Maybe a weaker bill is better than nothing, but the bill won't be strengthened if the LGBT community and our allies fail to speak out to protect children here in PA. 

Let Representative Mundy know you support including sexual orientation in the legislation. 

The other sponsors include:  MUNDY, EACHUS, TRUE, BELFANTI, BRADFORD, BRIGGS, CALTAGIRONE, CARROLL, CURRY, CUTLER, DALEY, DePASQUALE, DeWEESE, FRANKEL, HARKINS, HICKERNELL, HOUGHTON, JOHNSON, JOSEPHS, KULA, MAHONEY, MANN, McILVAINE SMITH, MURPHY, MURT, PALLONE, PARKER, PASHINSKI, PAYTON, PETRI, PRESTON, SAMUELSON, SANTONI, SHAPIRO, SIPTROTH, K. SMITH, STABACK, STURLA, WAGNER, WILLIAMS, YOUNGBLOOD, and GINGRICH

If your rep is on this list, please drop them a line thanking them and explaining why it is important to reintroduce sexual orientation into the legislation. You can find your legislator here and get the contact information.

This is a good example of seizing a moment to educate and bond.  Those relationships can lead to further dialogue on other issues. 

There are kids who need you.

sdf

View Article  Threat to Rendell: Wouldn't this be a good use of Corbett's office?

I mean really ... from Philly.com

Gov. Rendell was among at least 30 governors to receive a letter this week from an extremist antigovernment group demanding that he resign or face being "removed from office," according to officials in the Philadelphia office of the FBI.

Rendell received the letter within the last 48 hours and immediately turned it over to federal authorities, FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver said.

Klaver said the letter was from a so-called sovereign citizens group that is "advocating a plan to remove all state governors from office."

"These are individuals who reject all forms of government authority, and they believe they are emancipated from all the responsibilities associated with being U.S. citizens, such as paying taxes and obeying laws," Klaver said.

People are going to crazy town and this incredibly screwed up version of states' rights logic feeds right into the paranoia.  To be fair, these folks hate all government since they actually targeted states, but I have this gut feeling the 30 Governors might have something in common.  Well, sure they do -- they are Governors. 

I know this is a federal matter and the PA AG can't do much, but he can rethink his assinine political pandering on the public dime and the precedent it sets. 

 

View Article  Stopping by the Tribune Review

What an odd duck of a newspaper. It regularly runs anti-LGBT columns, such as the one below, but will occasionlly print a delightful little story about a teenaged lesbian living in a rural Mon Valley town.

Anyway, this gem was printed a few days ago in defense of poor Catholic Charities, bemoaning the utter destruction of faith based help because D.C. allows people to get married, including LGBT peoples.  Hmmm.  Here's the best part ...

Needy District residents will turn to other providers chosen by the D.C. government, which has lost the benefit of Catholic agencies' full experience and character.

Please tell me this was written before the latest Catholic scandal which is DEEPLY embedded in the Catholic experience and character of protecting priests before children.

Keep in mind, Catholic Charities can still bring likeminded citizens together to perform acts of charity.  It just has to play fair if they want public funding.  They stopped providing foster care and adoption services because they would be required to license same sex couples as foster/adoptive homes.  They continue to provide other services and receive public funding by simply cancelling their family health insurance coverage

This ongoing spin from the likes of the Heritage Foundation just reeks now that we begin to see the true deceitful ways of the Church leaders. Ripping family benefits away from employees (forcing some family members to rely on publicly funded health insurance) spits in the face of the very Institution that provides health care throughout the nation.  Do they turn away gay people from the clinics? 

Corruption drips down and I call this decision an act of a corrupted system that is probably better off playing with their own monies. 


The Trib did report on the Oil City showing of "Out in the Silence"  This is why it is important to monitor media coverage of the regional LGBTQ community ... we need to chime in!

sdf

View Article  PG: online commentary

When I began blogging, I dedicated many posts to the letters to the editor to demonstrate that civil minded people were speaking out on LGBTQ issues. This pretty much requires me to search the papers daily with LGBTQ keywords (typically, gay and homosexual -- the fact that stories about lesbisn WITHOUT the word gay is for another day). 

Something I've noticed of late is that the newish feature of commenting in PG letters often brings up LGBTQ comments and most of them are positive.  This is an interesting twist in online discourse.  I myself rarely if ever comment online at the PG simply because I spend so much time commenting on my blog and Facebook, but I do read the comments. 

Check it out for yourself.  Click here http://www.post-gazette.com/forum/letters/ and follow the link to Open Letters.  I mean you can't spend ALL morning on Facebook, right?

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