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View Article  Letter to the Editor

Proponents of Equality:  II                              

Bigots: III

Ron D'Amico is helping keep the balance in the Post-Gazette Letters to the Editor count when it comes to marriage equality.

I am writing to express my extreme pleasure with Sen. Daylin Leach and his move to legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania ("Senator Pushes Bill to Allow Same-Sex Marriage," May 28). He is exactly correct when he says that this basic civil right should be available to all Pennsylvania citizens. Five other states (soon to be six) already allow this basic civil right to be exercised by its gay and lesbian couples, and it is definitely coming on a national level very, very soon.

I believe this is the reason that people such as Sen. John Eichelberger are pushing to enshrine discrimination in our state constitution. They know that denying this basic civil right is unconstitutional unless they do so! I mean, what part of "equal protection under the law" do they not understand?

Sing it, my friend!  Call out the bigots for their desperate ploys to cling to our "Separate, but Equal" balance in Pennsylvania. 

Ron nails all the essential points:

As far as the people who say put it up for a public vote, I think the Founding Fathers would be aghast to think that the rights of the minority might be decided by the will of the majority. They wrote the Constitution to specifically avoid this scenario!

I do think it's important to note that these marriages would be civil, not necessarily religious, in nature. No church would be forced to perform a ceremony it is opposed to performing. It's the legal recognition we're after, not the church's blessing.

Yes, civil rights are not at the will of the people.  Yes, religious rites are a smokescreen issue. 

The letters are neck and neck.  Marriage equality isn't driving the degree of letter writing as in past years, but do not underestimate the impact of this section in the paper.  Pick up your pens and tilt that balance in the favor of equality for all. 


View Article  Doyle, Casey and Specter on Inclusive ENDA

Remember the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)? 

Earlier in the week, I checked Facebook and discovered I had been invited to join a new group to push for an inclusive ENDA.  Inclusive means sexual orientation and gender identity (and expression but whose counting?).  Not the palatable, baby steps, throw out the scary genderqueer folks version.  The one that protects all people.  So we can work and be productive members of society.  Earn our keep.   Etc.

The group asked people to call their federal legislators and get the 411 on their positions.  Here's what I learned with three calls to DC.

Congressman Mike Doyle (D) 

Supports a fully inclusive bill.  Staffer didn't hesitate and knew exactly what ENDA was.

Senator Bob Casey (D)                                                                                                       

He has told his staff in conversation he supports anti-discrimination measures that include sexual orientation. They do not know about gender identity. The staffer will ask him, but told me to wait for the issue to become public to learn his position with that regard. He wouldn't commit to "maybe" but only yes on sexual orientation, period. Took me a few minutes to get the staff to understand what I was asking about.

Senator Arlen Specter (D)  

The first person who answered the phone said he had no public position, then transferred me three times. I ended up in a voice mail and asked for a call back. I'm still not sure they understood the question.

Sorry for the strange fonts.  It happens.

So ... now what?  Well, the Facebook group plans to tabulate and create a strategic plan to reach out to the folks like Casey who need some work. 

We have work to do here in Pennsylvania.  Join the FB group and stay on top of this issue.  Be vigilant, my friends.

View Article  I went to a meeting and New Hampshire got marriage equality

Big night.

First, how about New Hampshire?  Now six states offer marriage equality to their residents. 

Second, the Humane Society recycling fiasco gets increasingly snarled.  Matted, perhaps?  Read the article and tell me if you share my outrage that the local organizations are upset MORE about their lost profits than by the toxic destruction being committed in their name?  They are going to sue this man over their lost thousands, but no one is talking about the electronics and who is responsible for disposing of them safely.  Sad.  I guess dogs and cats living near the dumps in China aren't worth rescuing, especially when they glow in the dark.

Either way, this gives me pause:

Oklahoma records show that Mr. Nixon, who was employed by Allegheny County in the administrative services division from 1998 to 2002, established his recycling business under the banner EarthEcycle in January 2008.

Before that, however, court records in Allegheny County show Mr. Nixon left behind a checkered life when he moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma in 2003.

Mr. Nixon, who filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2000, pleaded guilty to a number of charges in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in 2001.

The charges include two counts of simple assault, making terroristic threats, harassment and possession of an instrument of crime. He served one year of probation for each charge. Court records show charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing were withdrawn.

When Mr. Nixon implied I was an industrial spy and threatened to draw me into a lawsuit, I was merely taken aback.  Now I can see all those little red flags were waving like mad for good reason.  Wow.  I just cannot get over how many people were duped by this man.   Rest assured, he had help from someone with inside connections to multiple local animal welfare organizations.  Or don't rest assured because there are many tons of your materials floating around out there and no one seems to care.

I want my shredder and my electric heater back!  I will GLADLY pay a reputable company to dispose of them.  Maybe a lot of folks are comfortable with the "oh well, how could we have known?" approach, but I feel incredibly bad that I didn't take action sooner.  Visions of the 60 Minutes segment haunt me.


Most of all, I feel awful that I was right. I have been bashed in the dog world, in the queer world, ignored by friends in the media and just trounced by volunteers for these different organizations.  I wish they were all right and I was just an overly sensitive jerk.  There is no satisfaction in being right.  No feeling of accomplishment.  None of the usual underdog standing up to the man sensations.

I feel like crap and I'm probably going to cry in a few minutes because I keep thinking that I should have started waving my hands back in February when I first smelled a rat.  Instead, I let someone bully me into a corner.  Now I'm backing down when people are saying "Oh, these organizations couldn't have known" to get me to stop complaining about their culpability.
Bullshit. If I walked into the Humane Society of Podunkville and said "Here's a too-good-to-be-true fundraiser that will generate $10,000" they would ask some questions.  Especially if my company was 365 days old! 

So the unanswered question now is what these organizations are going to do about it?  I wish someone would put the screws to them on this particular issue -- how do they undo the damage and dispose of the electronics?
View Article  General Round Up

Not a lot to report on the local front.  The dueling marriage equality bills are not generating the outpouring of letters to the editor we experienced in 2006 and 2008.  Maybe you could write one

New Hampshire votes on marriage equality today.

Check out the comments section to see (for once!) a constructive outcome to disagreement.  Outrage is coming to Pittsburgh, the Film Society wants to support the film and people have good suggestions on a potential panel discussion.  Now that's how blogging should be all the time!

Blogging for LGBT Families drew over 100 blog participants. I also discovered a new PA blog ... Philadelphia Gay Parenting Examiner.  Check it out.

Everyone and their brother wants to be involved in the G-20 summit. There's really no gay angle, however.  Unless the County Council ...finally ... passes the non-discrimination ordinance and we can join 14 other Pennsylvania municipalities in the economic forefront.  We have no real LGBTQ economic hook here in Pittsburgh.  We do have, however, the opportunity to take a closer look at LGBTQ global issues.  What's life look like for the average homo in the G-20 nations?  More to come on that ...  

DC wants to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.  A group of pastor-bigots wants to block that legislation. Another group of pastors think otherwise:

"I personally don't support the notion that it should be put to a referendum," Dennis Wiley said, "because I think the point is very clear that the rights of a minority should never be subject to a vote of the majority."

Chime in if anything floats your boat.

View Article  Film Society Movies; Will they support Outrage?

Two upcoming movies sponsored by the Film Society.  They state "PLGFS is always happy to support gay-themed movies...  "

I hope this means they will be working with Magnolia Productions and the Pgh Filmmakers to promote Outrage the Movie which is absolutely gay-themed and promise to be a powerful, dialogue-generating documentary.  I would love to see a panel discussion after opening night, but I've had no response from the Filmmakers about that possibility. 


Showing at the SouthSide Works Cinema
Thursday, June 18th at 7:30 P.M.
Pedro The Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society is proud to bring you this extraordinary film:
In 1994, Bunim/Murray Productions made the groundbreaking decision to cast openly gay, HIV-positive Cuban-American Pedro Zamora as part of MTV's The Real World: San Francisco. Zamora's time in the Real World house on Lombard Street brought a face to the AIDS crisis; and U.S. President Bill Clinton credited Zamora with personalizing and humanizing those with the disease.

In BMP Films' first scripted project, PEDRO celebrates the extraordinary life of Pedro Zamora, a young man who when he found out he was HIV positive at 17, made the courageous decision to dedicate the rest of his life to speaking out about his condition in an attempt to raise awareness about the disease in his community, even testifying before the United States Congress to argue for more explicit HIV/AIDS educational programs aimed at youth of color before auditioning for The Real World in 1993. His appearance on The Real World brought his story and his message to MTV's youthful audience and beyond, and when Zamora's health began to deteriorate in late 1994 (after he left the show), it became front page news nationwide, and his death at age
22 provoked a worldwide outpouring of grief.

PEDRO is a film by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland ("Quinceanera") and was directed by Nick Oceano and written by Dustin Lance Black ("Milk") with story by Dustin Lance Black and Paris Barclay. PEDRO stars Alex Loynaz as Pedro, Justina Machado ("Six Feet Under") as Pedro's sister Mily, and Hale Appleman ("Teeth") as Pedro's roommate from The Real World, Judd.


Presently Showing at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill
1729 Murray Avenue, 412-422-7729
Valentino PLGFS is always happy to support gay-themed movies...especially ones that are as well done and colorful as this film is.
*From the FIRST 50 people who send an e-mail to valentinotix@gmail.com with PLGFS Giveaway in the subject line, two people will be randomly chosen from a drawing to receive free tickets!!

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Rated PG13, 96 minutes

One of the world's most celebrated fashion designers, Valentino Garavani developed an interest in design as a teenager and entered the world of haute couture in the early '50s, working under Jacques Fath, Balenciaga and Jean Desses. In 1959, Valentino opened his own house of fashion in Rome, and he soon became one of the leading lights in European design, known for his trademark shade of red and his clean, stylish lines. With Giancarlo Giammetti, who has been Valentino's business partner and significant other since 1960, the designer built an empire that remained one of the most prestigious in the fashion world until Valentino announced his retirement in the fall of 2007. Filmmaker and journalist Matt Tyrnauer, who has written about Valentino for Vanity Fair, examines the public and private lives of the fashion icon in his documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor. Granted unprecedented access to Valentino's home and office, the film offers an unusual look at his relationship with Giammetti, how his creations are made, his lavish lifestyle, and how changes in the world of haute couture have impacted him. Featuring an original score by Nino Rota, Valentino: The Last Emperor received its North American premiere at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. - Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

View Article  Presidential Proclamation for Pride Month

Personally, I think this is more rhetoric from a President who once called himself a "fierce advocate" yet has backed off many issues that he has the power to address:  Don't Ask, Don't Tell, federal benefits for domestic partners, etc.  These Pride proclamations are a little more useless than the showcase of politicians who show up at PrideFest, but don't show up to take action. 

Worse yet are those who use smoke and mirrors to give the illusion of action and add fuel to the fire of the babysteps approach. 


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release        June 1, 2009



Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.  Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born.  During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society.  There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities.  LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before.  I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration.  These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done.  LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives.  At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.  Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans.  These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security.  We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation.  As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected.  If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit.  During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.




View Article  Blogging for LGBT Families in Pennsylvania

I believe this is the 4th annual blog swarm to educate readers about LGBT families.  I met the editor of Mombian at the LGBT Blogging Summit we attended last December and have found her blog to be very interesting.

Now my nuclear family is Ledcat and myself as we do not have children.  Still, as a former foster parent recruiter, I know how many children languishing in the adoption lists could benefit from what we have to offer.  Now is not the time for us, but I certainly keep that possibility on the table.  At this point, second parent adoption is legal in Pennsylvania due in part to the hard work of local LGBTQ advocate and attorney Christine Biancheria

Pittsburgh has a small, but lively chapter of Families Like Ours.  I'm on the email list and enjoy the exchange on very seemingly mundane topics that most likely thousands of other parents are discussing in other forums.  The vast majority of the conversation is fairly universal with an occasional LGBT specific twist.

PrideFest has a children's section.  Family friendly picnics are springing up.  I'm not sure what is going on with the Family Fun Festival, but hopefully it will be back next year. 

We also have resources for LGBT youth -- Dreams of Hope, Persad's Youth programs, GLCC Youth programs, GLSEN Pittsburgh.  These programs can provide wonderful resources for children with LGBTQ parents as well.

When I stop to think about how many LGBTQ persons I know with children, I'm amazed at how quickly their names come to mind.  One family is embroiled in a custody battle for their adopted son and shares updates via texting direct from the out-of-state courtroom.  Another set of biological parents are in a custody battle between themselves.  I certainly know more than one family who have adopted and I am huge advocate of LGBTQ families pursuing foster parenting.

As for our family?  When Ledcat's brother and his wife had children (3 1/2 and 1) they never missed a beat with identifying us both as aunties.  Our niece is sort of confused that we live together, but she associates us as one unit.  It would probably be easier if we had a child so she could put us into context as so-and-so's two mommies, but she certainly doesn't see anything amiss about us.  The same with her little brother. 

My brother and his wife live quite away, but they are conscientious of sharing photos and I'm hoping to go out to see them this summer.

This topic hits all of us.  We need to know that children in LGBT families, gay or straight, feel their family is affirmed and welcome as with their straight family counterparts. 

Here in Pennsylvania, this hits home.  We need to pass HB 300 and the Allegheny County ordinance to ensure that families of all types have access to housing, employment and public accomodations.  We need to put the "Marriage Protection Amendment" to bed once and for all so children are not exposed to the vitriole and bigotry that accompanies this debate.  We need equality for all of our families. 

View Article  Tribune Review: People prefer civil unions to gay marriage. Huh.

In another not-slanted-at-all story, the Tribune informs us that most Pennsylvania's prefer civil unions to marriage equality. Read for yourselves.

A poll released this month by Muhlenberg College showed 61 percent of people in the state support civil unions, but 51 percent oppose gay marriage. Gay rights advocates note that support for civil unions increased 7 percentage points in the past five years, while opposition to gay marriage fell 3 points.

"It's continuing to change," said state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, who wrote the bill to legalize same-sex marriage. "I think same-sex marriage is an inevitability. Fifteen, 20 years from now, we'll look back and wonder why this was controversial. We'll look back on it as we do on laws banning interracial marriage."

Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Altoona, dismissed the comparison, saying same-sex marriage "doesn't have anything to do with religion or race." Eichelberger said his proposed amendment is needed because "any time we devalue marriage, we see problems."

"If we don't define marriage, we're opening that door" to legalizing polygamy and marriage to teenagers, he said. "We don't reward people for doing things that aren't beneficial. They're not penalized. You could get criminal penalties for polygamy. We don't do that to homosexual couples. They're just not recognized by the state and not given any kind of reward."

Todd DiFiores, 46, a small businessman in Mt. Washington, said he opposes all talk of gay rights.

"God made Adam. He made Eve," DiFiores said. "What these people do in their private lives I have no problem with. That's OK. I just don't want to see it displayed in public."

Can you do a marriage equality story without some reference to the Adam and Eve/Adam and Steve argument?  Or a reference to polygamy?  I guess we should be glad Eichelberger sidesteps the bestiality mention. 

Mr. DiFiores is quite the chap, huh?  He is the owner of the Grand Brew coffee house, FYI.  You might not want to patronize a business that refers to our identities as "it."  Starbucks doesn't do that.  I'm just saying.  OR you might want to intentionally patronize the business and bring your sexual orientation with you.  He can't refuse you service after all thanks to the City ordinance.  Maybe we should schedule some meetings there.  Make it real and personal. 

The article wraps up with a quote from Paster Roberta Dunn of the Metropolitan Community Church.  She reminds us that the way to change hearts is to forge personal relationships and connections.

"I think the most important learning we do is the personal. It's personal experience that helps us to learn not to discriminate against others."

This is consistent with the advice our leaders are providing.  We need to come out to new people in our lives.  We need to make our lives personal to our elected leaders so they have real people to associate with their votes on LGBTQ issues.  On LGBTQ lives.

View Article  Indigo Girls Concert/Meet and Greet: Tickets Still Available

SUNDAY JUNE 21, 2009  7:30 PM

Carnegie Music Hall in Homestead     Concert + Reception = $77.00

Limited tickets available (through ...   more »

View Article  Westmoreland Community Colleges removes sexual orientation from non-discrimination language

The Post-Gazette has the story on a recent decision by Westmoreland County Community College to extract two classes from their non-discrimination language. 

Since 2000, Westmoreland County Community College has published notices saying the school will not discriminate against individuals based on various circumstances, including their "sexual orientation" and "union membership."

But the school now says there is another statement that does not contain those four words and that it is the only one approved as an official policy by college trustees -- in a 1998 vote.

So the college has begun the unusual task of striking references to both classes of people from its non-discrimination language, including a statement on the college's Web site.

College President Daniel Obara said yesterday that the decision to delete the words is unrelated to a grievance filed in March on behalf of a gay employee who married in Massachusetts and was denied health insurance for his spouse. However, the president said the school learned of the conflicting language from the college's attorney during an internal meeting called a month ago to discuss the employee's case.

Huh.  From what I'm reading, someone accidentally inserted this language into the policy which then just sort of "caught on" with other publications and documents.  Now that they are aware of the issue, which has been a nonissue for the past 9 years, the College is going to strip people of their protections? In what reality does that make any sense? 

I understand that there is a process to change policy, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply follow that process to bring the actual policy into compliance with established practice?  Wow, that's confusing.  After 9 years, it would be difficult for anti-union/anti-gay forces to have any grounds for predicting the downfall of the College.  No one noticed enough to make a fuss. 

Until someone filed a lawsuit.  Huh.

Mr. Doherty, a WCCC employee for nearly five years, was married last November in North Andover, Mass., where state law recognizes same-sex marriage. After his request for benefits was denied that same month, he appealed, and in March, the Professional Association filed a grievance that is now headed to arbitration.

"We feel it's a just request," said Mr. Hricik, whose union is a part of the Pennsylvania State Employees Association. "[Mr. Doherty] is legally married. It's not legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but he's legally married."

Dr. Obara declined to comment on Mr. Doherty's case, citing the grievance proceeding.

Again, this is just a backwards response to discrimination.  Are they afraid that acknowleding the faux policy will strengthen the suit? 

The Post-Gazette reports that 9 out of 14 community colleges across the Commonwealth include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.  That's the kind of imbalance that HB 300 should rectify.

Westmoreland County Community College will not discriminate in its educational programs, activities or employment practices based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, ancestry or any other legally protected classification. Announcement of this policy is in accordance with state law including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and with federal law, including Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

One a final note, this is another example of the power of a union/LGBTQ alliance.  The union plans to oppose removing the language:

Michael Hricik, an English professor and president of the WCCC Professional Association, said the union will oppose removal of either class from campus publications.

"We feel both should be included in the policy -- especially the area of sexual orientation," he said. "We checked at many of the other community colleges throughout the state of Pennsylvania and they have [sexual orientation] in there."

A much more high profile alliance fermented in California as the two forces worked on a boycott of the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego. 

This is a particularly interesting dynamic here in Southwestern Pennsylvania with our breeding ground for socially conservative Democrats and socially conservative blue collar workers. We are also a LGBTQ community with a significant class divide.  I'd be curious to learn more about the labor sentiments of leaders in our community.  I know one of our forefathers from the 1908s and early 1990s was a unionized teacher who was at the helm of generating class conscious protections within the community and his union. We don't have a contemporary "working class gay hero" here in Pittsburgh.

Well, perhaps we just have one coming out of this mess at WCCC. 


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