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View Article  Official Response on Ordinance from Vince Gastgeb (R)

This came from a constituent of Councilman Gastgeb who wrote in favor of the ordinance.

Thank you for taking the time to write. It is my understanding that the Bill will be going through some amendments over time. In addition, there is a public hearing scheduled for Thursday. With this as well as other anticipated meetings, we will see how this progresses. I am not inclined to support a special protective status for any group of people based on the County level of government. I am not sure that the County is the appropriate government that this should rest with. The State has not acted at all and the Federal government already identifies/lists discrimination status within federal law. People of any race, creed, origin, whatever should never be discriminated against. I am not sure what protection this Bill offers in the current form nor what power the County government has regarding this issue.
 
I have a special needs child of my own regarding education and I am personally aware of issues of discrimination.  It would be wrong for anybody to be discriminated against.
 
Additionally, Council is only a portion of the equation. Chief Executive Dan Onorato must sign any ordinance for it to become law. ( short of a veto over-ride.) His stance on this will be a powerful voice before any vote.
 
Again, thank you for writing and Happy New Year.
 
 
Vince 

So he doesn't know what protections are offered in the bill?  Does that mean he didn't even read it before deciding not to support it? Or what? 

Invoking his special needs child is a slick move right out of the playbook of former State Representative Ken Ruffing who used his autistic child to steal tax payer money.  Nice one, Vince.

I also love shifting the blame onto Onorato although it is true that we have word from him yet on how he would vote on this topic.  I have to check the transcripts from the pseudo-town hall meeting held this morning.

Vince Gastgeb.  Protecting creeds.  This is your government not at work.

View Article  Allegheny County Hearing: Thoughts and More Testimony

Please remember that Adam is using a smart phone to capture and send me these excerpts from the testimony from a standing room only room.  We will happily accept updates and corrections.  This afternoon, Gary Van Horn confirmed with the County that 80 speakers were set to address County Council on this topic. 

I love that Janet Edwards leveled the charge of bearing false witness against the religious discriminants.  That is probably the best comment so far. 

View Article  Alleg Co Hearing: Further Updates

Reverend Janet Edwards

Vote for the ordinance

Am a christian. Greives that most of her peers oppose.

1. You're allowed to be angry, but you're not allowed to hurt. And gay people are hurt. They need protection. And anyway, religions are protected. So everyone claiming that it would make religions have to hire gay people are bearing false witness.

2. Presbies advocate for this legislation.

3. Voters support it.

Miranda Vey

Transwoman

Works here, but does not live here.

Joined a large CPA firm in county . Was discrimination against during transition.

So moved to pgh and took lower paying job. . Moved from county to city because of law.

Was successful in her new job, and helped make a new multimillion $ company.

Karen Shaheen

Asking for all of this means we're being heterophobic.

We can't do this because we might want to protect incest and beastality.

Boxturtle Karen!

20 years ago who would have though we would do this. Except city did it 20 years ago!

Kevin Acklin

Catholics for the ordinance!

Applauds green.

Former candidate for county council. Would have voted yes if he won.

Good speaker.

Today is council's chance to lead.

Life protect and strengthen us all.

Nikki Kemp

Western pa planned parenthood.

Yes!

Is a moral issue for her.

Stand up from fairness.

Karen Mesko

Was fired. Is ex-military. Discharged due to dadt.

Lived in dread until it happened.

Says gay is hard cause of forced closet.

Jim Ludwig

Thanks speekers. Especially last one.

Is a florist. Says is fair to gays.

But against law. Wants to have right to discriminate. Flat out! But not always, just sometimes!

Susan Broughton

League of women voters

League is in support.

Gay rights are natural evolution of feminism.

For shame that the 4 dropped support.

Pass it at earliest opportunity.

Aliya Paulding

Lifelong resident.

In favor.

Is young lesbian. Her partner has health insurance. But was afraid to add her partner, because didn't want to come out.

Thanks the speakers as well.

<Insert comment by Councilman Burns>

Councilmember James Burn, jr

Advice to emailers.

Personalize text! Got a lot of form emails. Is not as effective.

Susan Whitewood

Wife and 2 kids. Christian.

Cofounder of Pittsburgh glbt corporate round table

Says corporate environment is very gay friendly. (not so good for helping sell this bill)

Says local govt should catch up to corp America.

Says would help attract talented people to area.

Emilia Lombardi

Asst prof at Pitt.

Was turned away by a gym.

Says Pitt does not discriminate.

Discrimination is cause of health disparities for glbt

Ericka Fricke

Landlord.

Is for measure. Has value in serving people of disparate backgrounds.

View Article  Alleg Co Hearing: More Updates

Over 80 speakers are lined up.  Adam and I are doing our best.  Well, I have the easy part.

Peter Harvey, Fair Housing Partnership

Fair housing partnership

In favor of fair housing ;)

Talking about race, and how there are still problems.

Loads of housing discrimination still.

Including gays. Landlord "we don't rent to fags.". And nothing could be done.

In favor of "committed local body. "

Anne Haggedis

Was born with ambiguous gender. Tells story of life of discrimination.

Fired from job because of this.

Reverend Carl Templen

Retired minister.

Opposed. Unnecessary. No "epidemic of discrimination".

But is offensive to religion. And discriminates against religion.

Says would be unprecidented in a city with an identical law.

Caroline Sporanza

Half of her bridal party were gay.

Gay civil rights are important.

She says we're all keen. Discrimination against us is "wrong".

Talks about quality of relationships of her friends.

Important economic issue.

Jeanne Clark

Today is mlk birthday. Latest battle in the drive to form a more perfect uinion.

Maps to sufferage of women. Civil rights for blacks.

Compares those opposed to George Wallace.

Today you have a choice. Show courage and be jfk, or be George Wallace.

Jonathon Robison

Yields time to councilwoman denise Edwards

Smaller city. Willinsburg. <perhaps Wilkinsburg?>

8-0 her council endorsed this ordinance.

Passionately for the measure.

 

View Article  Alleg. Co Hearing: Sort of Live Blogging

Christopher Hixson from the local blog After 8 Pgh is sending me posts from the Allegheny County hearing.  These are his interpretations and commentary.  Please email me any corrections on names and affiliations.  Great job, Christopher.

 

 

Testimony of John Michael Curlovich

Says this meeting is d?j? vu from city law.

Filed first suit under law.

Was demoted at work.

Was then fired.

Won settlement.

"freedom of religon does not give you the right to treat anyone the
way they want. "

Knows people who have lost jobs and homes.

Urges support.

Testimoney of William Depner

PA pro life coalition.

Draw the line against the liberal jaunernaut.

Advances the homosexual agenda.

He has a lifelong friend who is gay. They all do.

Undermines his marriage.

Brings up race? Bizarre.

View Article  CP on Big Queer Rally; More on Club Pittsburgh

The City Paper's Marty Levine does his usual excellent job with in-depth coverage of the recent Big Queer Rally. Levine focuses on how the crowd responded to the participation of so many local politicians that many interpreted as a strong show of support for the LGBT community.

But it was the number of elected officials speaking out for LGBT rights that most impressed the activists in attendance.

"City and county representatives are here -- I actually wasn't expecting that at all," said Ellie Gordon of Squirrel Hill. "We don't hear a lot about how the government here is [supportive]."

"When they come to seemingly small rallies it makes a world of difference," added Tamar Toledano, of Oakland. "It brings your private struggle into the public sphere."

Levine's story is a good reminder that we do have a lot support among local politicans on all three levels:  City, County and State.  I am sure the same holds true for many councilors elected throughout the 700 million municipalities throughout the County and the larger region.  I'm encouraged that they encourage advocates because mobolizing our allies among the voting public is the key to impacting the legislative process, indeed the larger political process. 

Now for a brief look at what's happening with the Club Pittsburgh story.  Last week, the Post-Gazette explored the much-lauded philanthropy of Club Pittsburgh owners' Peter Karlovich and Steven Hereforth.  Community leaders including Kathi Boyle of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF) and City Councilman Bruce Kraus spoke very positively about the generous nature of both men, including the frequent opening of their home on Mt. Washington to fundraisers for a wide range of activities, both LGBT related and not.  Political campaigns of  including those of Hillary Clinton, Luke Ravenstahl, Jason Altmire and Chelsa Wagner have benefitted from fundraisers held at their home. 

For the most part, people acknowledge that these men have been generous with their good-fortune and acknowledge that their philanthropy has been a boon for Pittsburgh, particularly the LGBT community.  My understanding is that Hereforth is a board member for PATF while Karlovich sits on the board of Persad Center.  As I've said before, I have been to their home one time to attend a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, as a guest of local business owner Gary Van Horn.  It was a spectacular view; I did not see the entire home, but it was evidently well designed for a variety of events.

Despite this generosity, there remain lingering questions as to whether these gentleman "paid to play" with their personal donations (and those very same fundraisers) to prevent closer scrutiny of their business, Club Pittsburgh.  Both men and the Mayor vigorously deny these allegations.  The attention of the local media has swung to potential criminal activity related to the death of Cleophus Pettway over a week ago. 

KDKA's Marty Griffin broke the story on Tuesday evening with a live investigation of the removal of police removal of a significant quantity of containers of VCR inhalants, reportedly used to enhance sexual performance (try an Internet search on that topic and see what fun sites you bring up). What was unclear is whether the Club (illegally) sold the inhalants which may have contributed to Mr. Pettway's death.  Toxicology reports are pending. 

The Post-Gazette picks up the story in this morning's edition, using cashe website pages to allege that Club Pittsburgh did advertise the sale of these inhalants at one point.

cppleasures.com, a Web site affiliated with Club Pittsburgh, advertised the sale of Maximum Impact, a "premium head cleaning solvent" in an aerosol can, as recently as Dec. 29.

The product has since been removed from the site.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, video head cleaners -- called "poppers" -- often are used to enhance sex. Dozens of Web sites sell a range of brands.

A December posting at clubpittsburgh.blogspot.com recounted the story of a club-goer who inhaled the head cleaners: "We once had a customer who would purchase phenomenal amounts of Maximum Impact. (Available at cppleasures.com for only $18!) By 'phenomenal,' I do not mean 3 or 4 cans. I mean 30 or 40. If we recycled her [sic] popper cans, we'd have had enough metal to create the world's first all-aluminum bathhouse. He huffed & puffed & blew our sales through the roof."

The posting came from a blog called "A Night at Club Pittsburgh," which is also the name of a pornographic video filmed at the club.

A Web site advertising the video features explicit pictures of sexual acts and invites potential viewers to "spend an evening at Pittsburgh's ever popular Club Pittsburgh."

Attorneys for the owners assure that the Club is cooperating fully with the investigation who have reportedly made a private contribution toward the funeral expenses for Mr. Pettway. 

Other bloggers have commented that this might be some sort of gay-sex witch hunt, feeding into the public's perception that anything associated with the sexual activity of gay men is seedy and sordid.  There is another line of thought that running a bathhouse with so many under the radar activities itself contributes to this perception. 

I still maintain that the stories are, first, the investigation into the cause of death for Mr. Pettway and, second, the allegations that the City turned a blind eye in exchange for political contributions.  If the Club activities, legal or not, contributed to his death then they need to be held accountable, but that is still very much open to investigation.  A man died and that should be investigated.  The issue of the "pay for play" are much less easier to investigate. 

Today is the final day for nominations to the Mayor's newly forming GLBT Advisory Committee.  Appointments are anticipated by mid-February; perhaps the composition of that committee might be a better indicator of whom the Mayor deems a voice for the community.  As you recall, I have repeatedly asked the Mayor's office which they have refused to provide in spite of Deputy Chief of Staff Kristen Baginski's promises to the contrary.  They are not returning my calls rgarding either the criteria or the campaign contributions and so I have no confidence in this process.  I might be proven wrong and the Mayor will cobble together a truly diverse group of voices with little to no political campaign contributions.  As is apparent, he has the ear of one segment - the white gay male business owners who are in a position to make significant contributions to his campaign.

Yes, I know I can get this information myself and yes, I believe gay people should participate in the political process, including supporting campaign.  And that link between those campaign donations and any payback has not been established. 

But it doesn't look good and I think it is reasonable to ask the Mayor to bring some other people to his table, particularly those who do not have the means to participate as significant donors.  Everyday folks, you might say.  Why can't an average citizen serve on an Advisory Council? 

Finally, there is the issue of whether a bathhouse and related sexual activities should be operating in the City of Pittsburgh.  Bram at The Pittsburgh Comet is calling for a zoning reevaluation, explaining that the proper zoning would legitimize adult entertainment, gay or straight, as long as they follow the rules.  There is some legitimacy to this perspective, if the issue is whether mainstream culture is ready to take strides toward accepting that consenting adults are able to engage in sexualized activities without judgement or condemnation.  One could question whether we need to operate under the radar in the modern era. 

After all, we have openly elected gay officials and to my knowledge, there was no attempt to smear Mr. Kraus for his association with the owner's of Club Pittsburgh.  US Congressman Barney Frank withstood a challenge to his seat based on his association with male prostitution vis a vis a lover.  Those who make headlines are those who engage in illicit activities or dupe their families (and their constituents) by trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

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

Reminder:  Today is the public hearing on the County Ordinance to establish a Human Rights Commission in Allegheny County.  This is exactly where those who would seek to demonize us will make the argument that we are diseased, sex-crazed pedophiles out to destroy the fabric of society.  Show up and prove them wrong. 

View Article  The Post-Gazette: Human Rights are for everyone

It is pretty simple.  Human rights.  Not special rights.  Not gay rights.  Rights for human beings who are denied opportunities because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. 

The Post-Gazette editorial board agrees.

Similar laws are on the books in other Pennsylvania cities, but the protection it would afford individuals based on gender identity and sexual orientation are not included in state and federal law.

Any fair reading of the measure makes clear that it is not about condoning or condemning another person's lifestyle or behavior. Nor is it about preventing Boy Scouts from being able to go camping in public parks, as one organization is claiming in its material.

It is, as its name says, about human relations. We encourage County Council to enact it.

Amen. 

Go to the meeting Thursday night. 

View Article  Onorato on Human Rights Commission ordinance? Ask him yourself ...

The question popped up at the Big Queer Rally as to how County Chief Executive Dan Onorato would vote on the proposed Human Rights Commission.  No one seems to know.  Now you can ask.

Onorato to host cyber town hall meeting

Pittsburgh Business Times

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato will host what is being billed as a "cyber town hall meeting" on the county's Web site Thursday.

County residents can e-mail questions for Onorato during or prior to the Webcast, and receive his responses via streaming video.

"I'm looking forward to interacting with residents in this virtual forum and discussing issues that are important to them," Onorato said in a statement. "We hope to make cyber town hall meetings a regular occurrence, and I encourage residents of all ages to participate in the first one on Thursday."

The online meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Questions should be emailed to askonorato@alleghenycounty.us. A link to the Webcast will be on the county's home page Thursday morning.

This is perfect timing.  If everyone who reads this sends Dan a question about his stance on this ordinance and also cc's me, I will forward the number of questions submitted to the folks organzing around this issue.  If Dan doesn't respond and a sizeable amount of people asked him, that would be telling, huh?

Thanks to one of our readers and Big Queer Rally attendee for sending me this information. 

View Article  Stuff you should know about

Post Big Queer Rally, here's a few tidbits for your perusing pleasure.

Tony Norman explains why equality is equality.  I must admit that I wrote to him a few weeks ago and asked him to consider a column. He promptly responded and indicated that at least five other people has also contacted him.  I never followed up and I actually don't know who those other people were but think it is very good news that so many people saw that connection. 

Discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation remains a daily humiliation for too many of our fellow citizens. It isn't even a dirty little secret. It is sanctioned by local practice and years of prejudice.

L. Carlos Diaz of Franklin Park writes to the editors about the "social limbo" caused by denying gay people the right to marry. 

And, you probably recall, the hearing before County Council is set for Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 5 PM.  I will not be attending, but I hope you can.  Organizers will have stickers to hand out at the doors so you can identify yourself as someone who thinks people deserve equal treatment. 

Otherwise, I've been pretty much occupied with trying to feel better. 

View Article  Need Photos from Big Queer Rally

If you have photos and/or video from Saturday's rally that you would be willing to share, please forward them to me. I'll post on the blog, but also share with other organizers.  I'm especially interested in any video of the song that Janet Edwards led.

 

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