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View Article  Bruce Kraus' remarks before Allegheny County Council

Remarks before Allegheny County Council by

PittsburghCity Councilman Bruce A. Kraus

regarding Bill 4201-08

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

Good afternoon and thank you for providing me this platform to address you on this most critical issue of equal rights for all, and special rights for none.

I would like to begin my testimony by thanking my Councilwoman, and the main sponsor of this bill, Amanda Green, for her courage, her sensitivity and her clear understanding of the issue in putting this bill forward.

I would also like to thank those members standing with her today:

Council President Rich Fitzgerald, Councilman Jim Burn, Councilman John Defazio, Councilwoman Joan Cleary, Councilman  Nick Futules, Councilman Chuck Martoni and Councilman William Robinson.

I intentionally prepared my remarks today so that they could easily be entered into the record.

I have chosen my words with great care.

 

 

 

On the morning of November 27th, 1978, city of San Francisco Board Supervisor Dan White walked into the office of fellow Board Supervisor Harvey Milk, and fired three shots; the first pierced his chest as he rose from behind his desk, hands outstretched in his attempt to fend off the attack. Having fallen to the floor, Dan White stood over Harvey Milk, and placing the barrel of the gun to his head he fired two more shots, at point blank range, into his brain.

And what possible justification could there be in the mind of a Dan White to think he could murder his colleague in cold blood?

Because Harvey Milk was the first openly gay candidate to be elected to public office in the United States, who successfully passed San Francisco?s anti-discrimination law protecting gays and lesbians with regard to housing, employment and public accommodations.

Thirty years have passed since Harvey Milk sacrificed his life in the fight to achieve social equality for GLBT people everywhere, and yet the struggle continues. We struggle against the modern day Anita Bryant?s of the world, against the stereotypes and myths, against the lies and distortions, against governments determined to deny us our rightful place in society.

And now today, expressed through resistance of almost half of the members of Allegheny County Council to support the formation of a county wide Human Relations Commission, again I am reminded that the last socially acceptable, some even argue justifiable, targets of discrimination within our society are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.

Often times the city of Pittsburgh is perceived as being ?behind the times? or ?backward? in its? thinking; but in regards to issues of human rights, diversity, tolerance and promoting social equality this is anything but the case.

Our record speaks for itself.

Visionary Pittsburgh leader, Mayor David Lawrence, fully understanding the value of ensuring a ?seat at table? for all people, was instrumental in the establishment of the Mayor?s Commission on Human Relations as far back as 1954; some fifty five years ago.

 

In 1976, via the City Charter, the Commission was established as an independent agency of City government, renamed the Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission and charged with protecting the rights of every Pittsburgher to equal treatment under the law in issues of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Nineteen Ninety saw the first City Council election by district, assembling for the first time in our history, a governing body truly representative of Pittsburgh, in all its complexity and diversity. It was this council that amended the city charter to include sexual orientation, as a protected class.

A future Council would add gender identity and transgendered people to protected class status.

And in the years that have passed since the implementation of Pittsburgh?s Human Relations Commission can anyone here speak to me of the negative impact it has had? Has one company refused to locate here because we respect the rights of an individual to employment without discrimination? One family refused to live here because we respect the rights of people to fair housing without discrimination? One handicapped person refused to come here because we respect his right to navigate an unobstructed world?

And yet, support for Bill 4201-08 is faltering without a clear reason, other than misinformation and myth, spread by ill-informed and narrow minded people, claiming religiosity as a shield for prejudice.

And some members of the council worry about the political repercussions of their support.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with, now Magisterial District Judge, Gene Ricciardi, regarding his election to the first city council elected by district in nineteen ninety, and his support of adding sexual orientation as a protected class to the city charter. A freshman councilman with this whole career before him, faced with this daunting decision, and truly believing it would cost him reelection, Councilman Ricciardi had the moral character to stand for all that is right and cast his vote in the affirmative.

He won reelection with 88% of the vote.

 

 

 

So how will we dispel the rumors and innuendo, the myths and the stereotypes that protect peoples? thinking that it is somehow acceptable to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression?

I can only think of one way, and it is how I have chosen to live my life: truthfully and honestly as an openly gay man. It will only be then, when all GLBT people are truly free to live open and honest lives, free of the worry of being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or refused public accommodations that people will see the truth.  That we are your son?s and daughters, your mothers and fathers, your teachers, attorneys, doctors and yes, even your elected officials.

I?ll end my remarks with a passage from a speech Harvey Milk gave before a crowd of 300,000 plus assembled just weeks before the passage of San Francisco?s Gay Rights Ordinance and Harvey?s eminent assassination:

?And to the ?Anita Bryant?s? of the world? let me remind you what America is? Listen carefully:

On the Statue of Liberty it says: ?Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free??

In the Declaration of Independence it is written: ?All men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights??

?That?s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard you try, you cannot chip away those words from the base of the Statue of Liberty.

It is what America is.?

View Article  PG coverage on the hearing: This is what insomnia does

I can't let the man called Potter have all the blogging firsts.  So I stayed up until 2:07 AM to post the Post-Gazette coverage of the hearing before Allegheny County Council.   Here is the link.

This article sucks.  The reporter quotes multiple Chrisitan-flavored bigots and only two proponents of the ordinance.  There is no sense of how many people turned out for and against, nor any perspective on the magnitude of the turnout itself. While the excerpt from Janet Edwards is good, the reporter just talked to religious people and hey -- this isn't about religion.  It is such an easy trap to fall into, but not a single person supporting this ordinance is trying to legislate behavior or values in communities of faith.  Preach bigotry if you want, just don't deny gay people the right to hold a job or rent an apartment. Or join a gym!  Someone testified that they couldn't join a gym.  What would Jesus say about that?  Isn't exercise and wellness a good thing?

There is also no mention of four co-sponsors succumbing to pressure to withdraw their support.  There is no mention of which Council members attended the hearing and which of those attendees stayed throughout the hearing.  No exploration of why Vince Gastgeb doesn't know what the ordinance entails or how Bob Macy is going to explain to my parent's why their daughter is fair-game for the bigots in West Mifflin.  None of that.

We get a short sterile piece that celebrates the ignorance and bigotry of a man who "braved the cold" to share an opinion based on bad information.  Isn't that a story?  The fact that no one informed this  man that his church isn't going to be forced to accept anything.  There are no provisions to require you to put up a rainbow flag and start performing same-sex blessings.  You just can't go into your public life and discriminate against gay people.  It is a pretty easy to understand distinction.  Marriage is not being redefined.  Frivolous law suits are an urban myth.

This sort of coverage makes me absolutely irate.  As irate as I can muster at 2:17 AM.  It is great that the PG editorial board took a strong stance, alongside columnist Tony Norman.  But which editor let this slip by?  You invest hundreds of staff hours and many, many inches of column space exploring a pay for play "gay story" including an in-depth profile of the establishment owners, but when it comes to a sweeping piece of civil rights legislation that could lay the foundation for a protracted statewide battle over similiar issues -- we get this.  Whatever. 

I'm going to bed.  Wake me when Rich Lord gets in the office.

ps:  Supportive but interesting letter to the editor about his very topic.  Patrick J. Corr, formerly of Northern Ireland and now of West Deer, writes as former victim of human rights abuses and the father of a gay son.

I left a country ruined by people who did not respect the rights of others and did not grant parity of esteem to all of its citizens/residents. As the father of a gay man, I hope that I do not have to watch his human rights be revoked by those who believe in discrimination as a way of life and who intimidate others into denying all the people all of the protections of the law.

To have come so far to see so few belittle so many!

Mr. Corr certainly sees the perspective in the issue - a vocal, tyrranical minority will stop at nothing to strip away the human rights of another group.  Simply because they can?  Maybe.  It is so hard for me to take seriously the truth of the wingnut rhetoric (Same Sex Attraction Disorder ??) that I often underestimate the power of the rhetoric to fulfill a general public's fear and restlestness.  (It is 7 am and I am back up again.  Darn weather.)

View Article  Pittsburgh LGBTQ Advocacy Email List Forms

The Mayor is looking for a few good queers, but has been rather circumspect about his selection criteria, process and other issues related to transparency.  Hope that works out.

Meanwhile, back at Lesbian Central, we've decided to stop the massive CC and BCC email messages from spiraling out of control by establishing an email list focusing on LGBTQ advocacy efforts in this region.  While political discussion is welcome, this is a list for folks who want to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty whether staffing a booth or drafting press releases or organizing sound systems or knocking on doors.  The list is non-partisan and not affiliated with any particular organization.  That being said, some of the discussion may be about candidates and campaigns as well as information updates from the various groups working on relevant issues. 

People who abuse these guidelines will be removed.  This isn't a blog for a comment war and it is not a bully pulpit for anyone.  This is also not a list for general announcements about fundraisers, events, meetings, potlucks or other such topics unless they have a very direct and concrete relationship to advocacy.  For that need, I suggest you check out the Queer Events List at http://groups.google.com/group/Queer-Event-Listings which is a great resource. 

The list is confidential and off the record.  Nothing should be forwarded or published without explicit permission of the author(s).   Bloggers are welcome to join if you can abide by those rules and, hopefully, be part of the process. 

So why announce it on a blog?  Well, I believe there is more than one individual out there who would like to get involved and this is a mechanism to get yourself informed and take that first step.  The trick is that this is where we will get down to the nitty gritty and generate a lot of email in the days leading up to specific events -- who is handling the coffee, let's all review the flyers, does the sound system work, did anyone print directions, is there a schedule of speakers, etc.  This is not a list for a fly on the wall.  It is a list for people who want to do something. 

The website is http://groups.google.com/group/pgh-lgbtq-advocacy   You can request membership.  If I do not recognize your email, I'm gonna ask you to give me some more details on who you are. 

Sound interesting?  Visit the site and sign up.  You can always opt to leave or set your membership to no mail and just check the website every so often to catch up on posts. 

Join the Impact.

View Article  Response from Dan Onorato's Office to my cyber town hall meeting question

This just in from County Chief Executive Dan Onorato's office.  I asked him about plans to offer domestic partner benefits to County employees.  View the meeting here.

January 15, 2009

 

Dear Ms. Kerr:

 

Thank you for your email.  We appreciate your interest in the cyber town hall meeting.  While the County Executive was not able to answer every question due to time constraints, we did receive your question and will send a response in the coming days.

 

If you were not able to join us, this morning the cyber town hall meeting will be archived on the County?s web site.

 

Thank you again for contacting our office and for submitting your question.

 

Sincerely,

 

Megan Dardanell

Office of the County Executive

View Article  Allegheny County: Another report

According to Gary Van Horn, the speakers number as follows.

49 for the ordinance

14 against.

Hmmm.  So 63 speakers out of 80 showed up. Bram thinks the attendance was split 2/3 for and 1/3 against. 

Anyone else want to weigh in?

View Article  The Council. Half the room and most of the Council is gone

It is twenty minutes past 8:00 PM.  Adam says the room is half full.  Interesting. 

I can add some commentary here.  It appears the pro-ordinance folks really outnumber the anti-folks. 

Here are some thoughts from Adam.

Loads of people out in support. Also loads out against.

Of those opposed 98% made purely religious arguments. It was painful to hear.

We were represented by the educated. By the professional. By the sane.

By any objective standard we should win this.

Politics is not objective, unfortunately.

Here is the closing statement from Council President Rich Fitzgerald.

Next meeting on this issue 28 jan in govt reform cmmtee. . Will not be open meeting.

 

View Article  Allegheny! Excerpts! Gastgeb leaves.

Patricia Weaver

Pa family institute.

Against!

Consequences.

Religious schools might not be able to discominate.

Photographers might not be able to discriminate.

Physicians might not be able to discriminate.

Catholics might not be able to discriminate.

Also, I'm now going to mischaracterize the law and break the 9th commandment.

<Diane Gramley and Tony Perkins kin.  Which one is the 9th commandment? Oh, the one about bearing false witness. Nice.>

Robert Gagnon, Ph.D

Against.

Ditto previous speaker.

Also, I usually wear my wedding ring on a chain around my neck. I just put it on my finger.

<I think that is Adam speaking on the last sentence.  What does wearing a ring around your neck have to do with anything?>

Oh, here's something from Vince Gastgeb who hasn't apparently read the ordinance.

Vince Gasteb

Holding cards close to hand. Says he is glad for a dialogue. Expects it to continue.

Then he left.

Fitzgerald just said that at start 13 were preset.

<I presume Adam means 13 council members were present>

Adam is taking a break here. 

He's back.

Beth Matway

Straight mother of two.

Twins.

Both are gay.

This ordinances good for my family. We count as a family too.

Compares this to integrating high school in 60s in Arkansas.

What will we say to our grandchildren?

<There are a lot of straight people speaking.  This is awesome.>

Ellen Parkhurst

Wearing an Obama t-shirt.

Makes a steelers joke.

Student wanting a reason to stay.

<At 8:16 PM, here are the Council members still present>

Present on council.

Futules

Fitzgerald

Green

Rea

Robinson

Five.  Five people are there to listen to the testimony of 80 people.  Sad reflection on the value the other members have for public participation in the political process.  I mean, if Gary was able to determine that 80 were speaking AND it really is a precedent, they couldn't juggle their schedules?  Seriously?

 

View Article  Allegheny County Council: Excertopia

Kishore Jayakumar

High school student.

Supports.

Talks about how hard it is to be out in high school.

Says is issue for mental health of county's youth.

Like milk speech in real life. But not in Altoona.

Really courageous kid! Big applause.

<Ledcat has been saying for weeks that bringing in student speakers would be powerful.  Did this kid come all the way from Altoona to speak?  Impressive.>

Gary Van Horn

With Delta Foundation. In support!

Says not in support are for use of word fag to describe glbt.

Makes econ argument.

References stonewall.

<I'm glad someone is referencing Stonewall in relation to something political instead of about defending a bathhouse.>

Here's a shot of the stickers the Delta Foundation created to help allies identify themselves in the meeting.  Big help.

View Article  Alleg Co Council: Excerpts

Adam is reporting that Rich Fitzgerald is saying the attendance is unprecedented.  At one point, the line to get into the room was 100 deep. 

Good show, friends.

View Article  Allegheny County Council: More Excerpts

La'Tasha Mayes

Black struggle is like gay struggle. Mlk is a natural ally.

With new voices of Pittsburgh. Women of color for repoductive justice.

Homophobia is like sexism or racism.

Thanks amanda green.

<La'Tasha was a speaker at the rally this past Saturday.>

Alan Wakefield

Always with the religious.

Do people actually expect laws to be written based on the bible? They apparently do. And they are taken seriously! This shot apparently works!

We will answer to god for what we do.

<I think he's an ally.  I can just hear someone shaking their fist and saying with great irony "Always with the religious.">

Judi Diven, MD

Am psych assoc Pitt & pa psych assoc

Supports.

Was offended by previous speaker who was just making things up about gays and mental illness.

<Oh yes, this was bound to come up.  I wonder if anyone it citing the make believe sources Diane Gramley uses for her expert testimony?>

Here's an update on the scene from Adam when I asked how Council was responding.

They've been pretty silent and contemplative.

Started with 11 in attendance. Most of those not here were opposed.

Matt drozd was here bit left early.

Jan Rea is listening intently.

Amanda Green is lovely.

Vince Gastgeb is also intent.

Fitzgerald has been a polite gracious moderator.

Saw doug shields at intermission. He apparently spoke before I got here.

Several people left for some other meeting.

Interesting.  I understand that the Citizens Police Review Board (CPRB) is meeting tonight, too.  Perhaps that's drawing some of the social justice folk.  Maybe Bram knows if there are any other meetings. 

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