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View Article  K.S. Kennedy Floral in the PG

Kerry and Lucy are in Saturday's Pet Tales column in the Post-Gazette.  Awesomeness! 

Mother's Day is around the corner.  Order your flowers now.  Lucy says yes!

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09122/967140-62.stm

View Article  Letter to the editor in PG: equal rites vs equal rights?

Today's Post-Gazette includes a letter from Jeffrey O. Mast of Cecil.  Mast supports the secular equality of the LGBTQ community, but draws the line at religious rites.

I was with the gay activists when what they sought was equal protection under the law. Now it seems the gay activists wish to commandeer the word "marriage." Unless I am wrong, "marriage" is a religious "rite," not "right."

It appears the "slippery slope" is in full effect. If we continue with the slippery slope, in five years we will be debating whether a church leader should be forced to perform a marriage ceremony for a gay couple.

Mast is a proponent of the separate but equal approach to civil rights.  A friend of mine asked me a similar question about whether a "secular marriage" using some other term would satisfy me.  I told her that I have no desire to force any religious group to marry me, but the claim that marriage is a religious institution is deceptive.  The term marriage is inextricably intertwined with the civil institution and clearly a part of the fabric of society.  You can't just parse the language because you will always end up with two tiers -- gay marriage and "real" marriage. 

Mast's other line of reasoning is that equal rights for the LGBTQ community should not infringe on the religious rights for other people:

 I believe that one's secular rights end where another's secular rights begin. I also believe in equal rights (not rites). Considering the fact that liberals believe that religion and government should be as separate as possible, it baffles me that liberals would insist on appropriating religious terminology.

Why don't religious folks come up with their own special new word and leave secular marriage alone? Hmm.  Seriously, he's playing into the fear that equal rights will destroy religious freedom which is ludicrous.  Lots of things limitt religious freedoms  - tax laws, building inspections, education laws,etc.  Lots of things in society are offensive to one religion or another - consumption of pork/beef, premarital sex, short hair, birth control, female Secretaries of State, etc.  Some you can simply ignore, others you must endure. Taking offense doesn't translate into your rights being violated.  There is no right "not to be offended."

Still, this letter does illustrate a welcome change from the usual gay bashing rhetoric.  Acknowleding that the LGBTQ community deserves equal protection is a good thing.  That's a shift and, I think, evidence that the gay agenda is working!  :-)  

View Article  City Council District 6 from the queer perspective

I read the Post-Gazette's endorsement of Robert Daniel Lavelle this morning with some skepticism.  I've lived on the Northside for almost 4 years.  Tonya Payne is the only elected official representing Manchester who has showed up IN MANCHESTER.  Not only that, she actually organizes meetings specific to our neighborhood. 

I've never seen Robert Daniel Lavelle in Manchester.  Someone did shove campaign literature behind my door knob one day. I was actually on my way to answer the door, but they walked away after two minutes and disappeared. 

We have other good legislators and elected officials, but they don't roll into our community.  They have come to nearby communities when invited, but I'd expect at least one appearance per term.  Is that too much?  She doesn't think so and she's here much more frequently.

Tonya makes time for Manchester.  She answers my inquiries on a regular basis.  She has been honest with me when her ability to intervene is limited.  She's trying to develop affordable housing in our neighborhood against the wishes of the mighty mighties who want to focus on housing for the $250,000+ crowd. 

The Post-Gazette editorial board also focuses on the Hill District issues and doesn't even mention Northside issues.  I guess the North Shore development's impact on Manchester doesn't generate the sexy headlines from the Hill District.

Then there's the gay issue.  Read the candidates questionnaires from the Steel City Stonewall endorsement process.  Lavelle is quasi pro-choice, tepid on comprehensive sex education and uninformed on LGBTQ issues -- he says some of his "associates" are part of the community.  I guess he must take a page from Luke.  It is infuriating that someone can be so uninformed on issues that have been extensively covered by the media, lack the initiative to get informed before completing the questionnaire and put the responsibility on us to educate him.  What? Ask an associate!

************************************************************************************** UPDATE:  A Lavelle supporter has pointed out to me that I misrepresented Lavelle's response.  Lavelle referred to friends/associates.  I should have caught that.  I still believe the distintion is necessary in the context of Lavelle's overall answers -- he clearly is uninformed on LGBTQ issues and lacks the motivation to educate himself.  That's unacceptable for a so-called progressive and I am somewhat disappointed that progressives ally himself with him, but fail to see this as a serious problem.  That's staggering.

Lavelle's supporters are using snark to mock Tonya Payne's name.  It is utterly ridiculous how well-respected leaders can engage in such behavior.  Sayeth the blogger, LOL.

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

Tonya, on the other hand, acknowledges her FRIENDS who are part of the LGBTQ community.  She's for civil marriage equality.  She understands the issues and she has a long record of turning out for LGBTQ events.  I always find it compelling that she marches in the Pride Parade and doesn't necessarily need the microphone.  It seems more genuine.  I've seen her show the same restraint in other situations and I admire her for trying to walk in people's shoes rather than bask in the limelight.  That, Mr. Lavelle, is how you educate yourself on the issues and the people whose lives they impact.  You don't go to a bar crawl for heaven's sake.

The Post-Gazette is wrong to say that Tonya has been indifferent to constituent needs.  I'm also not a fan of the editorial board painting her as an overwrought "more heat than light" kind of woman.  I guess they don't pay attention when Tonya quietly turns out for events and talks one on one with people.  They also haven't seen her wade into the political muck that is Manchester's housing development issues and deftly handle the minions of the local barracuda without losing her cool or becoming "heated."  This is a tough neighborhood -- there's little sense of community, tremendous socio-economic/racial divides and a bad reputation. 

Lavelle may be all things described in the editorial, but I believe the piece missed the boat on Tonya.  Labeling her with quasi-sexist paint as the overwrought woman who needs to let the men get the work done is a disservice to all of us. 

Associates?  Really?  You don't have any gay friends? Geez.  That's the language of people who tolerate my kind, not someone who values us.

Let me rephrase that.  It is good to acknowledge having LGBTQ friends and associates.  The inconsistency is how you can have those relationships and remain uninformed on basic issues of equality, especially if you are running for office. I don't get that at all. 

View Article  North Carolina Republican Claims Matthew Shepard Hate Crime a "Hoax"

See there's no need for Hate Crimes legislation.  It doesn't matter that the murderers said they pretended to be gay and admitted Matthew's sexual orientation was their motive.  It doesn't matter that he was beaten and strung out on a fence for 18 hours.  Virginia Foxx says the hate crime aspect ain't so because it was a robbery gone bad. 

Ahem.

No wonder Arlen abandoned the hatefest ship.  Now I'm really glad because defeating the wingnut Pat Toomey becomes even more important in light of this idiocy.

PS:  The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by the United States House of Representatives.  The legislation passed the House of Representatives with a 249 to 175 vote.  231 Democrats voted in favor of the legislation with 17 voting against.  18 Republicans voted for the legislation with 158 voting against.

h/t Media Matters

View Article  Specter's Switch

There's so much LGBTQ analysis of this news that my head is spinning.  People are celebrating, people are leery, people don't know what's going to happen. 

Specter switched parties.  If Al Franken is seated, it gives the Democrats a filibuster proof majority (60).  Good stuff can happen.  Good stuff for LGBTQ persons might happen. 

Specter isn't going to necessarily be a champion of LGBTQ legislation.  Here's his record per the HRC.  He rates a 67 on the HRC Congressional Scorecard.  In 2004, his rating was 50. His vote played a part in getting the Federal Marriage Amendment to the floor.  His stance on the Employee Free Choice Act is deplorable (he's opposed and reiterated that yesterday in his announcement).

So it is a mixed bag at best.  Still, those of us in this region of Pennsylvania aren't unfamiliar with the need to work with socially conservative Democrats to advance the gay agenda.  Specter's helps with the balance of power, but it signifies a need to redouble the LGBTQ influence in the Democrat party.  I think this is going to be a real challenge for the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Liberty City Stonewall Democrats -- keeping open channels with the mainstream party, but holding true to full equality. 

I attended a Democratic event this weekend, sponsored by the Vice-President of Steel City.  Those in attendance were Patrick Dowd, Kevin McCarthy, Hugh McGough, Joe Williams and Barbara Ernsberger.  Check out the Steel City slate of endorsed Democrats

The story that struck me the most?  Joe Williams' story about his meeting for the ACDC endorsement.  Rather than question him on issues or his record, they asked him how to improve relations with the African-American community.  Clearly racism is alive and well in the ACDC, even if it is embedded in a cloak of concern about diversity. 

Joe Williams has been at every Steel City event I've attended in recent memory.  He has earned our support.

The other story is the tale of Barbara Ernsberger who is running for the Commonwealth Court.  She's an attorney that has taken on multiple corporations in court.  She had to seek the endorsement before a group of lawyers she's opposed in court.  I may be naive, but that seems highly unfair.  I'm sure it is part of the local Democratic Machine, but it seems there should be some modicum of impartiality.  Anyone who challenges Wal-Mart has a lot of cred in my opinion. 

So what happens after the primary when the ACDC puts pressure on Steel City to fall in line with the party endorsement?  True, Luke did announce the impending formation of the LGBT Advisory Council.  Does that warrant an endorsement?  IMHO, it depends on the composition of the council.  I know of one incredibly qualified and respected by County leaders person who was not invited.  So I guess I'll just wait and see if its business as usual in terms of Mayoral advisors or a real change we can believe in.  Steel City may feel otherwise, but I'm curious how much power the membership has over the endorsement for the General Election. 

Getting back to Specter, I think the debate over meaning for the LGBTQ community reflects the general debate in the Democrat Party here in SW Pennsylvania.  The answer is always going to be personal contact with real, live LGBTQ persons and families.  Understanding our issues in the context of our lives is critical to achieve action.  This news simply adds another person to that list. 

View Article  White House Statement on Hate Crimes Bill

What is the Hate Crimes Resolution?  Click here for a summary.

From Equal Rights Washington ( h/t Pam's House Blend) comes this explanation

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) expands the coverage of existing hate crime laws to include not only victims of crime based on race, color, religion, and national origin, but also bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. H.R. 1913 also provides for federal involvement in prosecuting hate crimes in states where current law or local actions are inadequate.

Hate crimes cut across all of our communities and the LLEHCPA (H.R. 1913) is needed to ensure that all people have the right to be safe and free from physical harm and intimidation. Call your representative toll-free at 866-346-4611, Monday-Wednesday, April 27-April 29, and urge support of H.R. 1913 to fight hate crimes and provide safety and security for all people.

The White House statement.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
__________________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         April 28, 2009

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON H.R. 1913, THE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT HATE CRIMES
PREVENTION ACT OF 2009


This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.  I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance ? legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.  I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.

View Article  Onorato Supports County Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

This just in ....

From: Dardanell, Megan [mailto:Megan.Dardanell@alleghenycounty.us]
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 3:57 PM
To: Sue Kerr
Cc: Executive
Subject: On behalf of Dan Onorato - Ordinance 4201-08

 

April 27, 2009

 

Ms. Kerr:

 

Thank you for contacting our office. County Executive asked that I respond on his behalf. I sincerely apologize for my delayed response.

 

The County Executive believes that we must always stand united in our belief that discrimination is wrong because it damages us as a society. In Allegheny County, we must not tolerate discrimination on the basis of gender, race, mental or physical disability, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, educational status ? or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Together, we will continue to improve the quality of life for our residents.

 

The County Executive is strongly supportive of passing inclusive non-discrimination legislation here in Allegheny County, as well as at the state level. He encourages our elected officials to do so without delay. All citizens, including members of the LGBT community, need to know that they are fully protected in employment, housing and public accommodations everywhere in the Commonwealth in order to make Allegheny County and Pennsylvania stronger and more economically competitive.

 

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts regarding this important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

Megan Dardanell

Office of the County Executive

All jesting aside, this is a very important moment.  The support of the Chief Executive is critical to the success of the County and State legislation.  He is clearly a leader and clearly has the ear of many Democrats whose support is wavering. 

It has been a big week.  The Mayor's office went public on the LGBT Advisory Council and now this.  While we should enjoy these steps forward, let us keep in mind that we should continue to press our advantage and address other critical issues.  It is important the County extend domestic partner benefits to their employees, especially with any future merger talks in progress.  We've already allowed employees of the City's 911 Response Center to lose these benefits; we cannot allow that to happen again.  We must also continue to push for the appointment of openly LGBTQ individuals to boards, authorities and commissions as well as the hiring of openly LGBTQ staffers in their offices.  There are miles to go before we sleep, so to speak.

Still, I admit I am pleasantly surprised and grateful to the folks I know have been working on this matter in other ways.  Good show. 

View Article  HB 300: Here's how you can help

Received an update from the folks at Steel City Stonewall with information on where your energy can be most helpful with regard to passing HB 300 through the State House.  What they really need are people in the highlighted districts to set up actual meetings with your legislators to essentially put a human face on the LGBTQ community.  They will even send someone with you as a back up in case you need support. 

If you want to set up a meeting, go to www.steel-city.org for more information and contacts.  And, hey, if you can't fit a meeting into your schedule it will still help if you make a phone call. 

I apologize for the awkward formatting.

Some of these zip codes are divided between districts, so head over to doublecheck at  http://tinyurl.com/palegislator 

Allegheny County

Deasy    -  district 27      (412) 928-9514
                                                                     

15106

Carnegie

15136

Mc Kees Rocks

15143

Sewickley

15202

Pgh  (Bellvue)

15204

Pgh (Sheraden,Corliss )

15205

Pgh  (Crafton)

15211

Pgh (Mt. Washington)

15216

Pgh (Beechview, S. Hills)

15220

Pgh (Elliot /West End)

15225

Pgh (Neville Island)

15226

Pgh (Brookline)

15228

Pgh (Mt. Lebanon)

15237

Pgh (McKnight)

Deluca   (key target)  -  district 32 (412) 793-2448

15068

New Kensington

15147

Verona

15208

15208  (N. Pt Breeze, Homewood)

15220

Pgh (Parkway Center)

15221

Pgh  (East Hills)

15235

Pgh (Penn Hills)

15238

Pgh  (Blawnox)

15239

Pittsburgh

 

Readshaw   (key target)  -  district 36 (412) 881-4208

15120

Homestead

15203

Pgh (Carson)

15207

Pgh (Hazelwood)

15210

Pgh (Mt. Oliver)

15227

Pgh (Brentwood)

15234

Pgh (Castle Shannon)        

          15236 

Pgh (Caste Village)

Butler County

Gibbons    (key target)  -  district 10 (724) 752-1133

                16057  Slippery Rock

Fayette County

Harhai   (key target)  -  district 58 (724) 684-2939

15012

Belle Vernon

15438

Fayette City

15473

Perryopolis

Kula    (key target)  - district 52 (724) 626-2761

15012

Belle Vernon

 

15401

Uniontown

 

15425

Connellsville

 

15428

Dawson

 

15430

Dickerson Run

 

15431

Dunbar

 

15438

Fayette City

 

15442

Grindstone

 

15445

Hopwood

 

15449

Keisterville

 

15455

Leisenring

 

15456

Lemont Furnace

 

15465

Mount Braddock

 

15466

Newell

 

15468

New Salem

 

15472

Oliver

 

15473

Whitsett

 

15473

Perryopolis

 

15480

Smock

 

15482

Star Junction

 

15486

Vanderbilt

 

15488

Waltersburg

 

15489

West Leisenring

 

15492

Wickhaven

15666

Mount Pleasant

15631

Everson

15683

Scottdale

 

Lawrence County

Gibbons   (key target)  -  district 10 (724) 752-1133

16037

Harmony

16051

Portersville

16057

Slippery Rock

16101

New Castle

16102

New Castle

16117

Ellwood City

16123

Fombell

16127

Grove City

16141

New Galilee

16156

Volant

16157

Wampum

16160

West Pittsburg

Westmoreland County

Harhai   (key target)  - district 58 (724) 684-2939

15012

N Belle Vernon

15012

Belle Vernon

15062

Monessen

15072

Pricedale

15083

Sutersville

15087

Webster

15089

West Newton

15448

Jacobs Creek

15479

Van Meter

15479

Smithton

15601

Greensburg

15611

Adamsburg

15612

Alverton

15617

Arona

15625

Darragh

15636

Harrison City

15637

Herminie

15639

Hunker

15640

Hutchinson

15642

Irwin

15642

North Huntingdon

15644

Jeannette

15660

Lowber

15663

Madison

15665

Manor

15666

Mount Pleasant

15672

New Stanton

15675

Penn

15678

Rillton

15679

Ruffs Dale

15683

Scottdale

15688

Tarrs

15691

Wendel

15695

Wyano

15698

Yukon

Kula  (key target)  district 52 (724) 626-2761

15666

Mount Pleasant

15683

Scottdale

View Article  Persad kicks off American Shorts Reading Series

Here's a little snippet of pre-Pride news.

WYEP-FM (91.3) and Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures are joining forces with American Shorts @ WYEP.

The American Shorts Reading Series is Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures' annual summer series. It features readings, independent films and performances by local musicians.

This year, the programming will be presented at the WYEP Community Broadcast Center on the South Side. WYEP will take over the music programming for the series, and Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures will continue to program the readings and films.

The series gets under way June 12 with a collaboration with Persad Center to mark Pittsburgh Pride Week. The program will explore faith and sexuality in the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender-and-questioning (GLBTQ) communities.

On July 23, "Iran Unveiled" will feature two Iranian writers: Pittsburgh author Anahita Firouz and Moniro Ravanipour, who is a resident writer at City of Asylum/Las Vegas.

Details for events in August and September will be announced later.

American Shorts @ WYEP programs will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the June, July and September events, and $20 for the August date. For tickets, call 412-622-8866 or go to www.pittsburghlectures.org.

I'll admit I'm not familiar with this series, but it sounds intriguing and affordable.  Kudos to Persad for bringing a unique twist to PrideWeek. 

 

View Article  Lesbian Health and Mini-Spa Night was a nice event

Last night, Laura and I trunbled up to Mt. Washington to attend the 1st Lesbian Health and Spa Night, sponsored by the GLCC and Adagio Health and funded by the Birmingham Foundation and the Lambda Foundation.

The event consisted of a health area with screenings, breast exams and vouchers for mammograms.  I overheard one woman comment that she didn't have health insurance so hadn't had an exam recently.  That alone made this event worthwhile.  There seemed to always be a line for this which tells you something about the need.

The spa area featured multiple chair massages, two facials, paraffin hand wax treatment and the opportunity to get a henna tattoo.  I had one of each, including the tattoo.  It is a dog paw on my arm. 

It was a nice evening from the back door of the Presbyterian Church.  Kudos to Adagio Health and the GLCC for investing in a worthwhile project.  I hope to attend a follow up event next year. 

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