The battle wages on as valiant national LGBTQ leaders lead the charge for a federal strategy of equality. Top among those issues is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which passed the House with protections for sexual orientation only. In keeping with the call for inclusiveness, leaders have vowed solidarity to keep protections based on gender identity and gender expression in the new legislation.
You can monitor the situation via Facebook working group. I was one of the folks who made calls to my federal officials (Doyle, Specter and Casey). It tooks me five minutes, was free with my cell phone and I had to write down maybe 3 sentences.
Kudos to Mike Doyle for being an absolute yes on an Inclusive ENDA. If you see him at PrideFest, be sure to thank him.
The ENDA FB group has created a spreadsheet of undecideds in the House of Representatives. In the entire House, there are 6 absolute yes votes and 169 probably yes. With the probably no votes, there are 127 Representatives whose vote is undecided or unknown.
Check out whether your legislator's position is in the undecided/unknown category on the spreadsheet link on our Inclusive ENDA page. (**I've listed PA below - Sue.)
If they are listed there, please call their office at 202-224-3121. Ask your Rep's office whether he or she has a position on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and explain that means both sexual orientation and gender identity. Then, post the results of your call on the Wall below (even if it's just leaving a message).
Now I know from previous comments that people are busy working hard and feeling disconnected for advocacy. But I'm asking you to stop and think about this legislation (and HB 300) in the context of your own life.
Have you experienced discrimination or felt discriminated against in the workplace? Based on anything - gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Does your employer have a viable means of reporting and addressing this discrimination? A lot of people tell me no. They either suck it up or find somewhere else to work.
That's wrong. And I'm going to guess that the lack of protections or enforceable protections hits disproportionately in workplaces that suck to begin with -- low wages, undesirable working conditions, hard hours and so forth. Because employers that don't try to create a decent working environment (to the best of their ability) probably aren't worried that someone called you a fag in the breakroom? Right? (This is where you might begin to see the affinity between labor and the LGBT equality movement).
Unless they might be fined for it.
I'm sure not saying that ENDA or HB 300 is going to cure your work woes, but it is an important tool to fight back and send a message that we are not second-class citizens. That YOUR work is as important and valuable as your heterosexual counterparts. That you deserve to work harassment free so you can do your job plain and simple.
Why inclusive? Well, first because we can't leave people behind on the path to equality lest we prove ourselves willing to tolerate a three tiered separate but equal society. (Wrong). There's a also a fine line to understand -- for example, women who don't "express" the kind of female identity that society lifts up as ideal could be fired for being a disruptive influence. You aren't fired for being a dyke, you are fired for not being femme. Gussy yourself up and you'll be fine. (Wrong).
I know all of you gay people reading this have encountered gender role crap before. Either you look too gay or your don't look gay at all. Your hair is too short or your hair has too much product. Your wallet chain is too masculine or your purse is too pretty. One might get you fired, but my sisters who get the you don't look gay crap can empathize with this situation, right? And men, too, by all means.
So we all have a very clear investment in this legislation which would apply across the nation. The national organizers want that one simple call outlined above. The more calls they get, the more effort they will put into the issue.
So let's focus on Murtha and Altmire who are in our neck of the woods, okay? You know people who live there. You probably know gay people. God knows there are plenty in Cranberry Township which is ironically suffering a dearth of qualified blue collar workers who can't afford to live there. Plus, there aren't enough bus routes to transport folks from the big-bad-tax-levying City. Huh.
So call. Join the FB group. Post your results on their Wall. See if we can knock 127 down a bit. At least by two.
Finally, don't forget HB 300. Or the County Ordinance. There's a synergy between all three. While you are making calls, why not call three - your County Councilperson, your State Representative and Altmire/Murtha?
The company does seem to have ran afoul of the EPA, in spite of the protests of their ardent local defenders, er defender. Who works for them. Go figure.
I'm getting heat from animal advocates telling me that I should not be critical of the organizations that were scammed by this man. I disagree. Scammed, duped, misled, etc does not absolve them from some culpability, especially when the news headlines are filled with compaints about their missing money.
Is the missing money really the issue? I mean do you think the mother of the children playing near the toxic waste dump is wishing to take her kids to Disney Land or a home with a non-glow-in-the-dark playground? I get that these organizations need the money and put the eggs in the wrong basket. That's disappointing, I'm sure. But it is also foolish greed.
It seems improbable that all of these educated animal welfare volunteers missed the huge media coverage on this issue. It doesn't take a 60 Minutes geek like me to have picked up on the fact that there's a reason ALL of the electronic recycling companies charge people to dispose of these items.
But fine, let's leave it that they were duped and lost money they could have been raising with that energy and time. Fine. The question becomes how are they going to undo this damage? I don't mean the money or the fact that they look rather foolish, but what are they going to do about the collateral damage from their decisions to participate --- the humans and the animals living near the toxic dumps? Will any of these groups step forward with whatever proceeds they use and ensure that items sitting in the containers in Monroeville or wherever don't sit there forever? I guess the best case scenario is that they are seized by the feds or the state and disposed of -- on our public dime -- appropriately.
To be fair, it seems like none of the items collected in Western PA made it to the dumps. That's a huge relief. But they still exist.
Does anyone feel anything but anger about the money over this? I love the animal welfare groups and what they do, but it appalls me that people seem to think the lives of our domestic pets are more important than the wildlife and the human beings in these toxic dumps. I guess we don't see enough barefoot children trekking through the local dumps for it to seem real, huh?
Scott Bell of Ross writes in response to a reader's complaint that the PG had not delved deeply into the religious history of marriage. Scott puts that complaint in context:
Ms. Evans is correct that marriage under the umbrella of religion has a long history. She left out the part that marriage among pagans and the nonreligious also enjoys a long and deep past.
The truth is, in our country, the Christians, Jews, the nonreligious, first marriages, seventh marriages, the young, the elderly ... everyone is legally able to enter the institution of marriage. Well, everyone but gay people. The reaction from many of those opposing same-sex marriages in this debate would make some kind of sense if Sen. John Eichelberger's law was outlawing heterosexual Christian marriage. You can spin it all you like, but rights of people of faith are in no way under attack here. The rights of gay people to enjoy full citizenship are.
Being Americans all, we know that part of living in a country that values freedom means that we have to share our space with people who live and believe differently than ourselves. I would wager there isn't a gay person anywhere who would question Ms. Evans' right to marry and live her life with her marriage protected under the law. I'm sorry she can't find it in her heart to return the favor.
Scott, I'm not sure people quite realize that America = sharing your space with "others." Given the full court press of the past 8 years to convert American into a conservative Christian nation, I'd definitely say that some of us know that while others haven't throw in the towel.
You do make a good point: I don't care if. Ms Evans is or plans to get married. Marry away. Reap the tax benefits. Enjoy the rights. Savor the love, etc. And I definitely do not care if her church --- or any other church -- marries me. Discriminate away (and I mean that with love).
This is a pretty reasonable letter. Please consider your own. Pride month is the perfect time to pen something.
Speaking of religion, Tony Norman has a column about Newt Gingrich's attempt to replace the word liberal with pagan.
What, exactly is Newt Gingrich talking about when he insists "we are surrounded by paganism"? He's not using the original definition. It's not like there are millions of druids, shamans and followers of Zeus attempting to overthrow America's Judeo-Christian consensus. If his use of paganism is, as I suspect, shorthand for "liberal ungodliness," is this definition limited to one side of political disputes?
Is Scott Roeder, the man charged with the first-degree murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, a "pagan" in Newt's eyes? Scott Roeder is accused of shooting Dr. Tiller to death in the sanctuary of his church in front of loved ones. If the person responsible for vandalizing a statue of the Virgin Mary in Mt. Lebanon over the weekend is suspected of being hostile to Christianity, what does that make a man who murders another man handing out programs in his own church?
Another fine point. When I heard about the vandalization, a reporter used the word "tragedy." No, it is not a tragedy when a statue is vandalized. It is a shame and certainly a crime. It is disrespectful and worth investigating the motives. But the tragedy of yesterday is the death of a state trooper who saved the life of a child. That's a tragedy which has absolutely nothing to do with politics. A statue can be replaced, right? It could even be reconsecrated. Not so much with a human.
This is another fine column. I can't help but think it a call for gay persons of faith and allies to step forward to ward off the notion that your faith belongs to heterosexuals.
Tonight's event sponsored by the ACLU was very interesting and useful. The formal topic was "Issues and Answers for the LGBT Commmunity on Law, Marriage, Money and Family Matters." The 4 panelists are experts in their various fields. The interesting twist was having each panelist present on their area of law and then send them off to conduct mini-follow up/break out type panels. This seemed to work much better than a giant question & answer session, plus it created lots of opportunities for socializing and networking.
I must admit to momentary panic when I realized my Blackberry battery was wearing down (thanks to a toaster plug incident) which meant few tweets, but did actually force me to resort to the good ole pen and paper approach which I have used for the majority of my coverage of local events.
The first panelist was Larry Frankel, State Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. He provided an overview of the "state of the gay legislative nation" on a federal level. Larry wants us to know that Pennsylvania does not seem so bad when compared with the rest of the country. Yes, six states have marriage equality while we don't have a non-discrimination law. However, 29 states have anti-marriage equality amendments. That's a useful perspective.
In terms of marriage, Larry emphasized that the battle is moving from the courthouse to the political realm. The need is to fight for equality at the ballot box in order "to change the hearts and minds of America." He urged people who think lawsuits are the answer to obtaining rights to work more closely with the somewhat unified national strategy of the existing civil rights organizations.
Larry's overall premis is that steps toward equality ultimately move us closer to marriage equality. He spoke very movingly about this being a time when so very many issues are on the forefront that it can be overwhelming.
Next up was Maureen Cohon, an associate with Buchanan Ingersoll and a specialist in Family Issues, including adoption, healthcare, etc. Maureen brought up an interesting document known as a Domestic Partner Agreement which essentially establishes a contractual relationship between partners. More than powers of attorney or wills, this outlines the mutual obligations and commitments, even the potential issues of dissolving the relationship. We spoke briefly with one of her partners and she had some very valuable feedback for our particular situation.
Tony Infanti, faculty at the Pitt School of Law, talked about taxes. What struck me the most was the suggestion that while tax issues are very real (inheritance, etc) they are also very symbolic reflections of what we as a society value. He delved into some intricacies and I learned that Pennsylvania has a 15% inheritance tax that would impact Ledcat and myself regardless of our civil union/marriage from another state/relationship agreement. I also learned that Maryland waives this tax for domestic partners. What a simple, but powerful way to support LGBT families!
Last up was Sue Frietsche who gave perhaps the best presentation I've heard on HB 300 and the Allegheny County legislation. She was emphatic about the fact that lobbying works. She had interesting examples and she pulled the whole thing off without sounding the least bit preachy. Her reasoning as to the importance of lobbying? First, there is confusion that needs to be address. Some legislators just don't know that discrimination based on sexual orientation is legal throughout most of the state. Second is the mistaken belief that discrimination does not happen. Sue explained that our legislators need case by case evidence of what is happening to their constituents to trigger their interest and arouse their protective instinct.
Now, I'm not going to delve too far back into a heated discussion. I'll simply say that I agree with what Sue had to say. I need to find new ways to prompt people to take action. However, I still believe the advocacy folks need to wrestle with some of the issues people have brought to the table and build those personal relationships with people who are expressing that they feel outside of the loop. Denying that the loop exists isn't productive. Broadening the loop is the key. Communication. Open dialogue. Follow through. Persuasion.
This forum was a great start to Pride. Larry Frankel is a genial, humorous facilitator and we are fortunate he took the time to come to Pittsburgh for this event. The room had about 75 people, including many folks who you don't usually see about town. Barb Feige from the Pgh ACLU was everywhere, running video, bringing beverages and generally a flurry of activity to keep things going smoothly. It was well-organized, appreciated by attendees and drew an array of participants.
Cleve Jones (of Milk fame) is calling for an October 11 March on Washington for Gay Marriage. Pam's House Blend is not in favor of the idea. Bil Browning from the Bilerico Project has a list of 10 reasons why this is not a workable idea.
What are your thoughts? I'm personally not driving to DC for a 4 hour march on a day when Congress is not in session. I support pushing for a federal agenda, but this timing is strange.
Someone beat up a gay leader in San Diego for waving a rainbow flag. Ron Deharte is relatively okay and the attacker is in custody. Here's a partial video:
Did you hear this on the radio?
If my son, God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes. I would throw a shoe at him. Because you know what? Boys don't wear high heels. And in my house, they definitely don't wear high heels."
"I look forward to when they go out into society and society beats them down."
Williams and States hurled hateful epithets toward transpeople and especially children throughout the thirty-minute segment, including "freaks," "abnormal," "idiot," and "dumbass."
That's a radio program on KRXQ in Sacramento. The hosts refuse to apologise. In response to outcries, 10 corporate sponsors have pulled their advertising accounts from the station.
I think it is the rainbow flag that always gets me. Back in 2005 or 2006, the PG ran a beautiful story with a very colorful photo of the rainbow flag as a few children ran underneath it. That symbol of families and politics and pride merged beautifully.
Be sure to check out the Post-Gazette's story on Pridefest. It is fairly positive. I only have a few quibbles, because they continue to have their history wrong. I think Pride began downtown, then moved out to Mellon Park and into Shadyside. Ledcat was on the committee and shares that they had a week of activities. I know for a fact that in 2005 when the GLCC sponsored the event, there was an entire month of events which began with the GLSEN Prom and ran through July 1 when a group of queer bicycling grannies came to town. So this "expansion" myth is a bit disengenuous and makes Pittsburgh seem a bit further behind the curve than we really have been over the past 30 odd years.
It would be great for someone to curate a history of Pittsburgh Pride so we could all understand and enjoy the wonderful accomplishments over the years, including the recent expansion. This wonderful groundswell that has built over 20 years would be something critical to document.
The Trib published a guest column on the trial in the brutal murder of Angie Zapato. She was killed because she was a trans woman. Her murderer was found guilty of first degree murder and a hate crime.
Like the U.S. women's movement, which has worked hard to challenge the cruel and faulty assumption that women are to be blamed for sexual assaults they survived, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement is fighting its own struggle to hold offenders of hate violence accountable for their actions.
Hatred of someone's gender presentation is not justification for violence in Zapata's case or in anyone else's.
The right to live free from violence is not conditional. It is a right granted to all of us regardless of whether or not we identify with the gender we were assigned at birth.
This is a human rights issue.
We call on our lawmakers to pass legislation that funds community-based prevention initiatives and public education that works to counter the stereotypes and misinformation at the root of hate violence and legislation removing "trans panic" as an admissible defense in court.
We call on people to stand up, speak out and organize to create safer communities where we are all free to live our lives without the fear of violence.
I often tweet about my latest posts or breaking news, along with what I'm having for lunch and if I ran into anyone famous that day. I take quite a few photos and post them as things strike my fancy. All courtesy of my blackberry. Lots of tweets of varying degrees of self-absorption. :-)
I am hopeful that local community groups will jump on the bandwagon, but this is a start. I do use Twitter to follow the major LGBTQ blogs for things I need to retweet.
My colleague Thomas Waters picked up on myPride post, focusing on the advocacy assessment. Thomas and I share a fairly similar world view so often it does come down to tactics and strategy differences (very different). I had commented that:
My frustration with these events is that they gear people up for an activity which can be very difficult to pursue - face to face meetings with elected officials.
But I really disagree that face to face meetings with legislators is difficult. It is enormously easy, and even fun! All state representatives and senators make time to meet face to face with their constituents. PA representatives spend Thursdays and Fridays in their district specifically to facilitate these types of meetings and other responsibilities. A simple phone call is all it takes to get a meeting arranged.
I wasn't suggesting the process itself is difficult. Most legislators are happy to meet with people, agreeable and certainly interested in what you have to say -- you pay their salary! As he outlines, it really is similar to any other type of face to face meeting which requires you to be prepared, personal and succinct. And I do not question in the least the effectiveness of this type of advocacy.
My concern is that this is pushed to the forefront so much that is unintentionally perhaps excludes significant groups of people who simply do not have the privilege of taking a lunch meeting or a half-day vacation. I say this as someone who DOES have this privilege, let me admit. But I can count on many hands the numbers of queer people and families (and allies) who simply cannot. Either their jobs don't offer that flexibility or they simply must conserve their limited PTO for their families.
While this strategy is probably very conducive to a professional/upper-middle class career trajectory, it leaves a very important part of the community out --- those who are even more socio-economically vulnerable to the status quo.
I believe the advocacy groups should acknolwedge this divide for what it is and come up with alternatives means for otherwise disenfranchised groups to get involved. My fear is that when a working class dyke with two kids realizes she can't waste a day off that might be needed for her kid's sickday, she is further isolated from the political organizing efforts. The myth of gay affluence sort of creeps into this approach and I fear that is does some harm.
The harm? Well, the legislators are meeting one strata of the community ... as I described above. They don't meet the lesbian waitress/bartender and her office admin partner who could really use dp benefits and any kind of pension security. They don't meet the schoolteaching gay men who juggle daycare with critical afterschool activities and have firsthand insight into the experiences of gay youth in the public school system. They don't meet the single-mom struggling with custody, a hostile ex and the constant threat of being outed in her workplace. They may not be meeting trans men and women who historically struggle with economic security and job stability more the rest of our community.
I was one time asked to help organize some constituents for a meeting with a local elected official that ws 8:30 on a weekday. It was impossible for any of the persons I knew to make that happen. It doesn't mean the issue wasn't important to them; it is just the reality of their lives.
All I am suggesting is that the advocacy training have bit more realistic approach. If the truth is that weekday meetings are what it takes, then acknowledge that our fate is in the hands of the more elite in our community and figure out how to make them accountable. Perhaps dues to the member organizations could be lowered to allow more people to vote on the leaders?
Or lay out the other viable options. Most people have cell phones. Invest in a cell phone harvesting system and send a mass text when you need calls, NOW. People can typically do that. Identify a volunteer to try to set up some non-traditional meetings and aggressively recruit people to attend -- maybe do a survey of how many people would meet with Legislator X if they could meet at 7 PM on a weeknight. Be strategic and creative. But give people options.
By all means, continue the mainstream training. I feel somewhat frustrated sitting here because my elected officials are pretty good on most issues, if not perfect. Wagner, Fontana, Green, Payne and Doyle. That's a pretty good lineup on the homo questions. If I'm going to meet face to face with Doyle, I'll thank him for his full support of an inclusive ENDA and then discuss choice with him.
My comment is just meant to remind the organizers that a myopic approach will necessarily leave some people behind and urge them to be sensitive to the message they send with a "this the BEST way" approach, especially those are making good decisions for themselves and their families about getting involved.
It may be what it is, but there's no denying it adds to the growing systemic rifts along socio-economic lines in our community.
Thomas' enthusiasm for the process of face to face meetings is infectious. Perhaps you do have the time and just need the push to make it happen. Great. I know of multiple people who promise me they are going to call and then get distracted -- it IS frustrating to see Facebook updates about trips to kiddielands and playdates and shopping trips with Mom while civil rights issues go untended, but I know it takes careful education to help people make the leap from the family unit to the larger community.
Now an advocacy training specifically for LGBT families might be an interesting twist. Or "Advocacy on a Budget." What group do you join when you literally have $25 to invest? Hmm ... might be interesting to see some of the various "advocacy" groups have to prove their cases. (You know I'm going with Steel City Stonewall.)
PrideFest is almost here. There are a few specific events which I would like to highlight. Here's the full schedule of partner events.
Your Rights, Our Rights, Human Rights: An ACLU Forum Issues and Answers on Law, Marriage, Money and Family Matters
Presented in Partnership with Allies at CMU, Delta Foundation and Pittsburgh Pride 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009 7:00 pm
University Center, CMU Campus
Featuring "The Experts? Corners" ? individual and small group conversations with local legal experts on non-discrimination, civil partnerships, tax issues, healthcare decisions and more.
Larry Frankel, State Legislative Counsel, ACLU of PA
Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney, Women?s Law Project
Maureen Cohon, Family Law and Mediation Counsel, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
Anthony Infanti, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
This event is free and open to the public
For more information, call 412-681-7736
I've not met Larry Frankel in person so I'm very interested in this event. I also have some very practical questions and appreciate the opportunity to seek out answers. It is good to see an attorney in private practice participating as well.
GLTBQ Civil rights: How you can change government for your rights. A town hall forum and training session.
Wednesday June 10, 2009 7:00 - 9:00pm
A groundswell of activity is happening across the country to provide GLBTQ Americans with their civil rights ranging from hate crimes and nondiscrimination legislation to marriage equality battles. There have been successes, setbacks, and many big hurdles to come. Allegheny County and Pennsylvania are in the middle of such battles, and your rights may be placed in jeopardy! If we are not successful now, it may be a long time before we have basic civil rights in employment, housing and public accommodations.
It is easy to think about democracy being about the right to cast a vote, but there are other ways that you can assure passage of needed nondiscrimination legislation like PA HB 300 and the local county ordinance. Democracy is a participation activity! In this town hall forum, learn about the status of pending legislation and the things you can do to assure passage of these critical protections. You will leave with step-by-step ideas about how you can make a noticeable difference towards achieving equality.
This event is co-sponsored by Equality Advocates PA, Pittsburgh PFLAG, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, thomascwaters.com, and the Women?s Law Project.
St. Andrew?s Lutheran Church 304 Morewood Ave, Pgh, PA 15213
Contact: Thomas Waters
This could be useful for new-to-advocay persons. Equality Advocates has conducted similar sessions in the past. My frustration with these events is that they gear people up for an activity which can be very difficult to pursue - face to face meetings with elected officials. There's also the historical lack of follow through. These organizations are all very strapped for resources and do not (for various reasons) utilize new social media very well to mobilize the troops. If you are a tech person, perhaps that's how you can volunteer! Set up a FB page with frequent status updates, get wall discussions going and send out email blasts profiling different legislators. So go into this trainings with a very open mind as to how you can get involved. Make your own opportunity .
Might I also add blogging as an opportunity? There are not enough queer voices in the Burghosphere and, with all due respect, two out of three are white gay men. Minority voices within the community should seize this opportunity to speak out loud.
Of course, there is PrideFest itself. Be sure to check ou the "official" launch of the Dykes on Bikes - Pittsburgh Chapter.
Friday night, Outrage opens at The Harris brought to you by the Pgh Filmmakers. The Film Society is working to put together a discussion panel the following week, hoping to bring back some of the region's most powerful organizers who are a rich part of our history as well as the new generation of organizers. I'll definitely have the announcement on that one.
This is one of the most up and coming events in the region, even though it is not formally affiliated with Pride. It is great fun, political and welcoming. I'll be speaking for 5 minutes about women's voices on the Internet and through new social media. La'Tasha Mayes of New Voice Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice will also be speaking and she's great. I've invited tons of women, including many who are closeted to some degree. It is one of the most political-feeling/nice energies in town.
There's a little bit going on for all tastes. Focus on what speaks to you and leave the rest.
ps: the GLCC will have all sorts of greatness as they unveil their new downtown space (yes, downtown -- now that's visibility that translate into action).