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View Article  Potter on Quinn: Gay Sex Unsanitary?

Just a quick nod to our friend, the wonderful Mr. Potter over at Slag Heap.

In a gesture of bipartisan conciliation, I've been trying to find an upside for conservatives in all this, and I think I've found one, thanks to lefty media watchdog group Media Matters (motto: "We listen to Glenn Beck so you don't have to"). It comes courtesy of Pittsburgh's own Jim Quinn, who raises the possibility that healthcare reform will be bad for gays. 

Huh. You wonder why Rick Santorum didn't support it. 

Good stuff. We are very lucky Mr. Potter is among us.

View Article  Onorato's gay voting record: worse than we've been led to believe

I have done you all a great disservice on this topic. Someone I trusted told me that Pittsburgh City Council never took a vote on domestic partner benefits and I took that person at their word.  I went with the assumption that Onorato has never cast a vote on LGBT issues.  I should have done my own research. Bad enough, I thought.

I was wrong.  From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 1999  (I apologize that it is broken into two images, but you can click the link to see the original).

 

He voted against domestic partner benefits in 1999 as a City Councilman and then spent six years not taking action on them as the County Chief Executive.  When he runs for Governor, as I reported earlier, he forms a commission the week before both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia's Stonewall clubs hold their endorsement votes.

That's a pretty brazen maneuver. I was trying to be open-minded and pleased for County employees until I realized that I was played or just lazy. 

There's more.  While we know that the City Council vote on adding sexual orientation to the human relations ordinance took place in 1990 before Onorato joined the Council, I have a 1998 Beaver County Times article filed from the Associated Press that describes the vote to add gender identity and expression to the same ordinance.

Guess who voted against it?  Yes, the sole "nay" vote was Onorato.

 

Onorato voted no on including protections for gender identity and gender expression.  In 1998, he didn't think persons were experiencing discrimination -- there wasn't proof.  Do you think that was a reasonable perspective in 1998 Pittsburgh? 

Well. I just had a piece published statewide stating that Onorato has no voting history on LGBT issues and I was completely wrong.  His voting record on LGBT issues has been 100% against us.  Yikes.

But he's a changed man and, oh yeah, he wants to be Governor. To prove he's sincere, he waits until one week before the gay endorsement ... oh, I already said that.

I mean I owe a big apology to the Pennsylvania Progressive and the Philly Young Politics readers. I was a chump and I can admit it. 

I'm going to take a few hours to rethink all that has transpired over the past 72 hours here at Lesbian Central.  I think people are trying to hoodwink you into thinking Onorato has been benign.  The articles show that has not been the case.  They are also trying to get you to believe that he's changed, but the domestic partner issue flies in the face of that argument. 

To be fair, there are Onorato supporters who seem to truly believe he's changed.  They didn't obscure anything. But the best I can say is that it is far too little, too late.  I'm done with the meaningful conversations with my frenemies.  Get me to the nearest Hoeffel phone bank.

Sure, you can go with the inevitability argument and vote for Onorato. He needs our votes and with his alleged speech tonight to Liberty City Democrats, he's indicating he'll tell us what we want to hear.  He may even extend domestic partner benefits.

But you have a choice.  You aren't bound to the laws of war chests and political family dynasties and loyalties and all of that.  You can vote for the candidate who believes in full equality for all persons - Joe Hoeffel.

Turn out Sunday for the endorsement.  Don't let the gay community settle for the candidate who is a lukewarm version of an ally when we can have the real thing.  You are the only one who can make that happen.  You need to show up on Sunday, you need to join Steel City Stonewall and you need to cast your endorsement vote.  Plus, there's food.  What's not to love? 

Joe will be there.  He's traveling across Pennsylvania to be there because he believes you deserve equality.  Can you give up a few hours of your Sunday to believe in yourself?

View Article  My Twitter Buddy: PA Rep Mike Vereb

I had never heard of him.  I began following him on Twitter simply because he's a PA elected official. He's a somewhat frequent tweeter so he began catching my attention.  Here's his website.

Last night, he made a comment Speaker Pelosi that caught my attention:

So I retweeted questioning if this is the kind of thing a leader should tweet?  Really? I figured it was typical Republican Teabagging bull.

He responded.  Oh my God, I'm conversing with a Republican during HCR and no slurs are being exchanged! :-)

So I looked him up.  He represents the 150th district which is Montgomery County -- home of our friend and future Governor, Joe Hoeffel!  Yes, he's a Republican, but here's what his bio says ...

As a state lawmaker, Mike will work to achieve true property tax reform for all Pennsylvanians. He also will work to preserve valuable open space and improve regional traffic planning. Finally, he will fight to reform the way government does business in Harrisburg.

 

Public service has long been a calling for Mike. He served as president of the West Norriton Board of Commissioners, where he worked hard to make government more responsive and accountable to the taxpayers by holding the line on taxes, preserving open space and supporting first responders.

 

He also served as a board member-at-large for the West Norriton Little League, a member of the Hancock Fire Company, a member of the Pastoral Council for Visitation BVM, a board member for Visitation BVM Children Youth Organization and an advisory board member for the Norristown Police Athletic League.

 

Mike also brings plenty of professional and real world experience with him to Harrisburg. He has 20 years of combined law enforcement and corporate security experience, including 10 years with the West Conshohocken Police Department, and corporate security work at both Comcast and Day and Zimmerman Security Services.

 

Mike and his wife are raising their family in West Norriton, where Mike has been a life long resident.

Note the lack of references to family values.  He's concerned about taxes, urban sprawl and reform.  If you follow him on Twitter, you'll see a lot of references to his own family so he's clearly a family man.  He just doesn't seem to think MY family has a negative impact on his family.

Then I learned this.

I was like "Shapiro's Discrimination" what?  So off I surfed to look this up.  Rep Josh Shapiro is also a tweeter. I found out that Shapiro introduced Hate Crimes legislation in 2009.  And sure enough I find that Rep Vereb voted "aye" for HB 745 which expanded hate crimes protections to the LGBT community when it was in the Judiciary Committee.  The legislation has been recommitted to Appropriations. 

I knew this legislation existed, but what a pleasant surprise that a Republican brought it up in conversation.

So that's pretty cool. He saw my screen name and took the time to connect with me.  In the midst of a real hatefest over #hcr, I had a nice little interlude with an elected official from across the aisle. 

 

View Article  Breaking: Onorato allegedly creates domestic partner benefits commisssion

Tonight, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato addressed the Liberty City Democratic Club in Philadelphia (their chapter of Stonewall Democrats).  A member asked him about the lack of domestic partner benefits in Allegheny County.  This is what he reportedly said:

He said that he's convened a commission and that he told the head of that commission to "get it done" and thy he will sign an exec order, renegotiate labor contracts or whatever  it takes to cover all allegheny county residents.

I will try to confirm with his campaign ASAP.  More importantly, I'll try to confirm with his administration.  I've been trying to get HR Director Kathy Kennedy to respond to me for two solid months to no avail so maybe now that they have GOOD news to report, they'll be more forthcoming. 

One point I just have to make. If this quote is accurate, it proves that all along he could have done this and that claims to the contrary were disengenuous. I'm really looking forward to all of those apologies.  LOL. 

Seriously, this would be good news for Allegheny County and pave the way to a better culture in the County workforce.  I'd be very happy. 

View Article  The PG on Anonymous Comments

The headline is a bit misleading, but the Post-Gazette's Mackenzie Carpenter has a good piece on recent legal action involving anonymous comments.  I thought it worth examining.

We are a tiny blip in the Burghosphere.  Not much commenting, but most of it is anonymous.  Our comment feature can be tricky to use so I suspect it is most often just easier than intentional.  I monitor and remove comments that cross the lines of libel (I believe), but it is important that you realize there is no real anonymity in the blogosphere. 

Bloggers have been dropping like flies in Pittsburgh, most citing the consumption of time as too much a burden.  Part of that time is monitoring the comments. 

I've been "fortunate" that the person most often defamed in the comments PghLesbian.com has been me.  ;-) A few folks are the subject of criticism that I'm sure they don't appreciate, but my personal belief is that it is no worse than the gossip which pervades most social gatherings.  Criticism is not defamation. 

I've had to take some folks to task for their overzealous, out of line comments, but I've only had one incident when someone made me personally start to feel uncomfortable with their shall we say "intensity" on a topic.  That was resolved with a few email messages. 

Pittsblog 2.0 offers up an interesting analysis of the situation.

Of course, if you're a blogger or message board operator or host of a site that permits comments and contributions, there are a lot of things that you can do to minimize the risk that any of this will rise up to bite you. You can try to enforce a "no anonymous commenting" policy, which is highly imperfect but which sends a message to most people that certain standards of civility apply. You can permit anonymity but screen comments for bad behavior, either before they are posted or after they are posted, or both. (As I noted above, this brings certain risks in terms of liability, but it may also decrease the likelihood that a dispute will come up, or that a dispute will escalate.) You can ensure that your own contributions set a tone that doesn't cross the line in the first place, so that you don't invite tit-for-tat responses. You can do these things in a variety of combinations.

I've tried requiring people to register, but that is cumbersome with my software. I also feel that one goal of this blog is to allow folks who are not out an opportunity to be part of the dialogue. Anonymity is sort of an inherent part of the gay experience, especially in Pittsburgh. Of course, you can register using a fake handle so that's always an option. 

The "setting a tone" perspective is interesting. I've found it intriguing that gay institutions tend to draw the sharpest criticism and the most passionate defenders.  I've also found that people in real life generally assume I "hate" or "don't get along" with the persons connected with those institutions. I usually respond in jest that we are "frenemies"  (cue reference to Gossip Girls or 90210). People tend to equate blogger scrutiny with personal feelings and that's not true.  But that gets us back to the gossip piece. 

The PG piece quotes an actual anonymous blogger, The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

It is a good piece to read, along with the Pittsblog 2.0 post, especially if you are an anonymous commenter. 

View Article  Of Questionnaires and other issues ...

Steel City Stonewall Democrats are posting their candidate questionnaires.  Be sure to check them out to see what your potential elected officials have to say about LGBT issues. I think most of the questionnaires should be up by the end of the day. The national Stonewall folks which host chapter sites are experiencing some technical difficulties. 

Bilerico has a powerful post about the "birth" of the new civil rights paradigm with the emergence of LGBTQ activism second wave. (Links are active).

Civil disobedience has not been much of a tool of our movement lately. We're really concerned with maintaining our reputations, with not being confrontational. With being neat and clean and planned, planned, planned.

This action was messy and shocking and didn't get approval from "the powers that be," but I think we're looking at a new era in our movement. A paradigm shift.

As our movement matures, our emerging leaders will make an impact - not by their ability to make people like them, but by making people respect them - by demanding equality and taking risks.

Careful hasn't been successful, and we've all seen that.

I doubt Pittsburgh will see this sort of activism anytime soon until the "neat and clean" gays are willing to meet the activists on their own turf.  We are a very planned, careful community. I see a need for the folks who are careful to parse the "activism" out of advocacy to be a little less concerned about accessing power and more willing to take these kind of risks.  I also see the need for bridges and for the activists to engage a little, too. You can't realistically create change if you aren't willing to sit down at the table once in awhile.  That sort of myopic idealism creates tremendous power vaccums that are being filled by the same old, same old. 

Lt. Dan Choi has crossed from being a symbol of the gay-powers-that be to an activist hero. He has already put his life on the line for every American, now he's put everything else on the line for every queer American. 

 

 

 

How long, Pittsburgh, do we continue to plod along the careful route that has brought us what?  Baby steps that make it a more palatable region for upper middle class white gays to get a meeting with political leaders?  Elected Democrats who are terrified to support our civil rights?  Gubnatorial candidates who don't believe we deserve full equality (or health insurance)?  People who want our pink dollars but stay in the closet themselves? 

I suggest we are going to continue to plod along for awhile.  That's who we are.  We may joke about it, but maybe we should embrace it. 

Or maybe we need to consider exactly why Lt. Choi is a leader.  He could have kept on the muckety muck tour circuit, testified before Congress and made the talk show rounds to keep up his upper middle class gay street cred.  Instead, he did something pretty darn dramatic for a military man which may be the final nail in his career coffin.  He led by example, not by words alone. 

Can you name anyone in Pittsburgh willing to put themselves on the line like this to secure your benefits and rights?  Anyone?

sdf

View Article  Steel City Softball ready to roll

 

The Steel City Softball League is gearing up for their 28th season. They are on Facebook  and Twitter @scsl

This is a time honored tradition in the region and sounds like a great way to get out, be out and enjoy yourself.  These games are one of those things we always say we are going to do. If I wasn't a total clutz and had a horrible softball experience in graduate school, I might even try to play.  But let's start out with being a fan. 

There are recruitment events today and tomorrow.  A discounted membership rate for new members.  What a perfect way to celebrate spring!  Check it out! 

There are sooo many ways to get out and meet new people in Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community.  Softball is something you can enjoy either as a participant or just a fan!  What could be better? 

View Article  Correction: Onorato "Yes" on Domestic Partner Benefits

I was contacted by a board member with the Steel City Stonewall Democrats regarding an earlier post in which I criticized Dan Onorato for failing to answer the SCSD question on domestic partner benefits.  SCSD acknowledged that they made an error uploading the file and sent me evidence that in the original question, Onorato responded as follows:

5. Do you support domestic partner benefits for government and governmental agency

employees?

Yes.

The link to his complete questionnaire is here.

The Steel City website has been down over the past week so this was a strange technological fluke, albeit an incredibly ironic twist that this one particular word was deleted.  I'd go so far as to say prophetic but I do believe that it was an honest mistake. As I know the link was circulating before I put up my previous post, I do hope the organization makes an effort to clarify the mistake at least with the three campaigns most affected. 

Dan Onorato did answer the question on domestic partner benefits and answered the survey completely. 

Still, "yes" seems a bit inadequate.  How can he just sidestep the fact that he doesn't actually offer domestic partner benefits to his own government employees?  Did he hope no one would notice? At least, he didn't write "it is complicated."

At this point, he's screwed from a political perspective because he can't offer them at this late date and look sincere.  He could, however, offer them at this late date and do the right thing regardless of how it looks politically.  That option is always on the table.  Leadership. Conviction. Equality. 

Joe Hoeffel's questionnaire is here.

Question 5

Do you support domestic partner benefits for government and governmental agency employees?

Answer

Yes, I support full domestic partner benefits for government and governmental agency employees. Montgomery County has had domestic partner benefits since 2001, and as governor I will push for Pennsylvania to provide them.

That's an interesting last point Joe makes. In May 2009, I wrote about Pennsylvania extending domestic partner benefits to Commonwealth employees. In other worlds, they are available.  However, I've been told by union organizers that not all state unions have opted to access this benefit so clearly this is work to be done by Rendell and the next Governor to ensure same sex families have access to benefits - especially health insurance. 

Not only does Joe have a record of the benefits being available in his County (before he came to office even), but he's offered them to his campaign staff, too.  He's also making a very strong statement of commitment to "push" for benefits, not giving us a one word answer.

I know that I've been hitting this issue hard for weeks now, but here is an opportunity to simply compare the candidates words ... and actions. 

I regret being the bearer of inaccurate information.  I can say I acted in good faith and did look up the revised information as soon as I had access to my computer. While the organization is apologizing to the campaigns, I apologize to my readers for misleading you. 

View Article  Big Day/Week of Pink Advocacy: Pgh Part of History

Pennsylvania has been part of history this week with a groundswell of action to successfully squelch the Marriage Protection Amendment (plus, our own Pgh Blog for Equality).  Yeah, us!

Today, eyes turned first to the Internet, then DC, then more to DC and now as I type ... across the nation.

The day started with another blogswarm, this one dedicated to urging movement on the ENDA.  The goal was to generate pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make things happen.  Dozens of bloggers posted and the phone calls overwhelmed the phone system.  From Bilerico:

Reports from Pelosi's office indicate that hundreds of calls were received before the phone lines shut down. While the intent of the blogswarm was to indicate support for moving ENDA, rather than shutting down the phone lines, the obvious point is that there is a great deal of support among the LGBTQ community and its allies for moving ENDA. Let no one say that we do not lobby hard.

Then things get interesting.

Lt. Dan Choi and other members of GetEqual, a new direct action LGBTQ group chained themselves to the White House gate to demand action on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

 

From Pam's House Blend:

Choi was speaking at the HRC rally at Freedom Plaza when he asked the group's executive director, Joe Solmonese, if he would march to the White House. Both Choi and Pietrangelo were discharged from the military under DADT. Choi is the founder of Knights Out, a West Point alumni organization supporting LGBT soldiers.

"You've been told that the White House has a plan," Choi told rally protesters. "But we learned this week that the president is still not fully committed. ... Following this rally, I will be leading [the protest] to the White House to say 'enough talk.' ... I am still standing, I am still fighting, I am still speaking out, and I am still gay."

Lt. Choi and two others were arrested and are still being detailed as I type this.

There's more. 

Unrelated to the blogswarm, online activists of the organization GetEqual, a new direct action organization dedicated to LGBTQ equality, conducted coordinated nonviolent sit-ins at Speaker Pelosi's DC and SF offices.

Reports from Twitter indicate that 5 persons have been arrested from this action.

For the latest updates, follow @GetEqual on Twitter.

Still, there's more.

Activisits in San Francisco organized coordinated protest sit-ins in Pelosi's district offices.  There are rumbling of nationwide late night gathering to protest the detainment of the protestors. 

LGBT leaders are discussing the ramification of direct action versus advocacy led by the mainstream organizations.  That discussion is important, but Pittsburgh and statewide advocates can learn some lessons from the powerful image of Lt. Choi chaining himself to the White House gates.  We have relinquished a lot of power to behind the scenes political donors and there is absolutely no infrastructure to support direct action tactics.  The self-appointed advocates are not talking with the activists from the Dyke March and Bash Back.  To be fair, that's a two way lack of communication. 

Let's hope the conversation continues and trickles down into viable coordinated action on a local level.  This may be wishful thinking on my part. 

View Article  ENDA Blogswarm: Protect Our Jobs

Bilerico has asked bloggers to "swarm" around ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. House Speaker Pelosi is holding up this legislation which would provide employment protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Why We Need To Demand ENDA Now

We know that Speaker Pelosi is sympathetic to our cause. Clearly, she needs encouragement, because she won't commit to giving the signal to move forward. Meanwhile, LGBT Americans continue to suffer discrimination and harassment with no recourse. Why should we accept mere lip service?

President Obama famously said that "Power concedes nothing without a fight."

The tide in the LGBT community is moving toward standing up against Democrats who are tepid on our issues and show no willingness to demonstrate leadership to protect minorities which is a hallmark of the Democratic party.  Right?  Hence my ongoing frustration with Chief Executive Dan Onorato, but let's not go there.  As Dr. Jillian Weiss, the leader on ENDA, has remarked "If the base stays home in November, Speaker Pelosi will be out of job."  We are a force to reckoned with and to accomplish that we need you to take action on ENDA with as much enthuasiam as you showed on the Marriage Amendment this week.

Won't it be nice to be pushing FOR rights instead of AGAINST losing them? 

It is legal for you to be fired if you are gay unless you live in a municipality that protects you.  It took until 2009 for Allegheny County to make that move. If you work in Cranberry, you are screwed.  People across this nation lack this basic protection that should be a national standard.  How many of you have to "be discrete" at work about your partner?  It is exhausting and it erodes your ability to form natural bonds with your team if you have to censor yourself all the time.  It is also demoralizing that people can be fired for the perception that they are gay. 

I once had a coworker get away with bashing me for being gay.  She complained about my "bringing that" into the workplace when I made an innocent comment referencing my partner.  I was pooh-poohed by management which I have never forgotten.  A few years later, a senior manager sent around an email with a vulgar, demeaning reference to lesbians.  I filed a complaint and was not pooh-poohed, but I know damn well that filing complaints impacts your employment in subtle ways.  I was fortunate enough to have the Ciy's non-discrimination ordinance to back up my complaint.  My job was not in jeopardy, but my ability to move up was probably dampened. Standing up to discrimination at work is very difficult and draining. 

We need our leaders to champion safe workplaces for LGBTQ persons.  Enough with the capitulation and the hesitancy.  This is about doing what's right for people who are suffering at the hands of bigots.

Please call Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965. Ask that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, move to a vote.

Please be polite, but firm.

After you call, please tell us how the call went by clicking here. If you get a busy signal or hang up, let us know that too.

If you want more information on Speaker Pelosi's position on ENDA as stated by her office, you can find it here

Let's work together to let Speaker Pelosi know that we want action now!

At the end of the day, we will post a round-up of how the day went. Stay tuned.

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