Friday, January 16
by Sue on Fri 16 Jan 2009 01:11 PM EST
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.?
by Sue on Fri 16 Jan 2009 02:23 AM EST
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.
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.)
by Sue on Fri 16 Jan 2009 01:06 AM EST
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.
Thursday, January 15
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 09:37 PM EST
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
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.
Office of the
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 08:43 PM EST
According to Gary Van Horn, the speakers number as follows.
49 for the ordinance
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?
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 08:32 PM EST
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.
Here is the closing statement from Council President Rich Fitzgerald.
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 08:18 PM EST
Robert Gagnon, Ph.D
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 07:57 PM EST
<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
<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.
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 07:37 PM EST
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.
by Sue on Thu 15 Jan 2009 07:35 PM EST
<La'Tasha was a speaker at the rally this past Saturday.>
<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
<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.
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.