Consolidate? Save the Date! And Don’t Shop at Blumengarten Flowers!

Governor Rendell wants to consolidate PA's school districts from 500 to 100.  Now that's ambitious.  After last year's despicable behavior on the part of East Allegheny and West Mifflin residents when it came to absorbing the displaced students from the Duquesne High School, this could become a nasty mess real darn quickly.

Today's PG editors propose a new twist on this plan of consolidation — merging municipalities along the same lines as the school districts to realize the same savings from the recommended City-County merger.  It certainly makes sense from a fiscal point of view and mergers based on existing “school identities” could overcome the community identity based resistance. 

Still, the Lesbians want to point to one small but critical objection.  Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has not committed to ensuring that the civil protections and domestic partnership benefits available to City residents and City employees would be preserved in a City-County merger.  This is the question I submitted for the Town Hall Forum, a question that remains unanswered 28 days after I was promised a response in the “coming days” which I guess is sort of Biblical talk rather than a measurable sense of accountability on the part of an elected official. I digress.

Dan Onorato has not made a public commitment to support the Allegheny County HRC ordinance which would provide civil protections for LGBT residents, among others, in Allegheny County.  Dan Onorato has publicly resisted extending domestic partnership benefits, hiding behind the idea that somehow the County  budget cannot absorb the onslaught of homosexuals and their families emerging from the ranks of County employees.  Sadly, the ordinance is languishing in the Government Committee with no plans to bring it up for a vote because some of our County elected officials are capitulating to fear and hate, not to mention misinformation spread by the good Christians of Allegheny County.

Particular note:  the owner of Blumengarten Flowers in the Strip District testified that while he is willing to hire homosexuals, he does not want us renting a room in his house or having unsupervised contact with his children.  Keep this in mind when you make your Valentine's Day florist selections.

MR. LUDWIG:  My name is Jim Ludwig, 2938 Greenfield Road in Glenshaw.  I have a business in the Strip District.  I'd like to do something unusual and thank Anna and John Michael and the last person for testifying because I was unaware of some of the problems that may have existed in some instances.  As an employer, I don't look at sexual orientation when I want to hire someone.  There are lots — I'm a florist.  There are lots of gays in my line of business.  I'm interested in how people conduct themselves, if they're honest and dependable, if they have the skills to do the job.  And I think that's the case for most employers.  If I had an apartment building, I wouldn't be looking at sexual orientation for who I rent to.  But now what I'm worried about is reverse discrimination.  What now — I'm a homeowner.  I have an extra room that maybe I want to rent to someone.  I have kids.  Should I have the right to decide who I'm going to rent that — based on a lot of different reasons?  One of them might be sexual orientation.

If I want to send my son to be a Boy Scout, don't I have the right to know that the troop leader is not going to be a homosexual?  If I want to send my daughter to be mentored in a Sunday School, don't I have the right to know that that teacher is not a homosexual?  So in general, I'd certainly — these instances that the people testified that they lost their jobs, it's absolutely wrong.  But there are instances that it makes a difference, and I'm worried about reverse discrimination.  I'm asking if we're looking at this law because we're trying to solve a problem or we're looking at this law that may create a lot of problems. 

Fair laws should rise above ignorance illustrated in these comments.  This is exactly the same ignorance the residents started screaming about when a bunch of high school kids from Duquesne needed a place to get the education so critical to their future success.  At last count, West Mifflin has not sunk into the bowels of hell or driven away all the white people because of horrible tax rates. 

This illustrates the future and why we must continue to push for the county ordinance AND share our attention on the statewide law proposed by Representative Dan Frankel to expand the PA Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  YOU have a chance to literally jump on the bus as local members of the Value All Families coalition are planning a trip to Harrisburg on Tuesday, March 17 for a rally in Harrisburg on this very issue. 

You'll leave Pgh at 8 AM and return around 8 PM.  Children are welcome (check into the car seat issue if necessary).  I'll post more details as they become available, but save the date.  This is worth taking a PTO day or flexing your work schedule.  The PG editorial gives us a glimpse of the future, albeit one into which most Allegheny Countians and Pennsylvanians will be dragged kicking and screaming. We cannot miss this window of opportunity to put our protections in place NOW. 

March 17.   Save the date.


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  • Jim Ludwig. you, sir, are an idiot. To get up in front of hundreds of people and go on the record saying you are willing to earn money on the backs of gay employees, but not let them near your kids is despicable. What's worse is that you work — own a business — in an industry filled with homosexuals.
    I should thank you for being so upfront about your bigotry and ignorance. Now I know where to spend my dollars. I feel mighty sorry for your gay employees who now know very clearly that they are second class citizens in your narrow little world. Pathetic.
    Thank you, Sue Kerr, for continuing to point out when businesses act detrimentally to the gay community. We may not be able to make perfect decisions, but with this kind of information we can do our best to spend the pink dollars where they are most appreciated.
    I shop in the Strip on a regular basis. I know one store I'll never visit.

  • This is almost as bad as all the “allies” who are secretly gay or used to be gay. It makes me sick to my stomach. So many people are in the closet and fail to realize that they are hurting us more than Anita Bryant or Fred Phelps ever could. Shame on them. They deserve every moment of self-loathing they experience. All the alcohol in the world cannot purify the stench of hypocrisy.
    Poor gay bastards working for this Blumengarten guy. In this economy, what do they do? Quit? I sure hope they are looking around because he doesn't deserve the time of day or their talents.
    Consolidation ain't gonna happen. No way any of those small town mayors are giving up one iota of their power.

  • Oh, honey, between the politicians and the artists who make it big, there are more hidden homosexuals in Western Pennsylvania than at OUTrageous Bingo. Poof goes the gay pride when it comes to 1) making a buck 2) getting some power (hello Mr. Judge) or 3) landing a straight lover who finds your same sex antics distasteful. Oh my! You just slough off the gay skin and slither into your new breeder identity like nobody's business.
    And why not? Why shouldn't gay people get a bit of money, power and social acceptance, even if they have to choke on their own vomit to get there? Is that any worse than running a gay male sex club that profits at the expense of other people's health and well being? Is that any worse than running a gay bar filled with at least 20 cancer causing agents? Just cause you scrub the money clean with a little AIDS benefit doesn't make you any less lethal to our community than these self-loathing hypocrites.
    This little flower man is the least of our worries.
    The amusing thing is that we are writing all these letters to elected officials who are running terrified into the night of being identified as gay. Hoo-rah!

  • The problem is we don't have a current guide to locally owned gay businesses. There's the HRC national report for big companies, but the last Pride Business Guide is years and years outdated. It would be nice to see the business community come together to print a new guide so we aren't constantly emailing asking folks for referrals. I want to shop in gay owned businesses or at least businesses that support the gay community (not tolerate, support).
    To tie this in to the other stuff, maybe if we could see on paper how many companies are really willing to spend money to be identified as gay friendly, it would help change the closet mentality. It might be worth a try.

  • I can only partly answer your question, but it's very important that you've asked it. As far as I understand it (I'm not an official representative), the Value All Families Coalition is a loose network of LGBT and LGBT-friendly organizations in the state of PA (so, EqualityPA, ACLU, Planned Parenthood of Western PA, GLSEN, and Stonewall Democrats, to name the ones I'm sure of) who are committed to preventing anti-LGBT laws from being passed. They've been working to keep DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) off the floor for a vote for several years successfully, but it's an annual battle.
    Right now they're trying to get a non-discrimination act passed that will include LGBT folks as well- it's taken a couple of years but with a strong push from the community hopefully this will be the last.
    That's why it's important that we lobby our legislators- via letters (not email- they won't read it), faxes, or best of all, face to face visits. It's not as scary as it sounds and if you go for the first time bring a friend (queer or straight) with you for support-you'll be surprised how exhilarating it is. We elect these people and pay their salaries- it's their job to listen to us. Get your friends together and have everyone write a letter encouraging your representative to support a non-discrimination clause for LGBT folk.
    Probably lots of us reading this blog work in professions where we don't worry too much about our employers knowing our LGBT status, but we need this protection for our family out in Altoona, and all across the state (and in Pittsburgh) where the waters aren't such smooth sailing when it comes to employment and housing- and especially for our trans-brothers and sisters, who experience exponentially higher housing and job discrimination than do the LGB folks. We should be grateful for our exemted status but not unaware of the luck involved that others may not share.
    Anyone reading who's officially affiliated with the VAFC- clearly I'm not a representative nor do I know everything that's going on- we need more information. I think more is better in this case- we need to know exactly who you are and what we stand to gain from association.

  • Nicely put, Liz. I think one ongoing challenge of the gay advocacy community is a commitment to transparency and effective use of technology to disseminate information. Well, that's two challenges, isn't it?
    I'd love to get more frequent updates from these organizations. I can keep the topics front and center, but I need material and reasonaly updated information. I don't belong to an organization to have access to VAF. But I do chat with various members. I'm proud of their work, I just think it is too secretive.
    Are you going on the March 17 bus trip? I am struggling with leaving work that day.

  • VAF, geez, i need reference material to keep up with the acronyms. I could understand the reason for secrecy, as any family attempts to protect their children from adverse actions by an ignorant community. What I also want to say is that outreach, as was stated in an earlier post, to the straight community that believes in gay rights would be beneficial. I am absolutely appalled by politicians who fear that somehow their sexuality is called into question because they support gay rights. They are what they are, if they are straight, everyone knows that, if they walk a line, and visit gay clubs that are illegal, there is a faction of people who already know that also. I had wanted to believe that gone were the days, that the gay people of the Pittsburgh community had to hide, in secrecy to continue to live in Pittsburgh, or exit the area altogether to find a place that has been more accepting. As far as I am concerned we allowed a huge portion of a talented community to leave.
    I tihnk if Mr. Onorato's fear of affording the same financial benefits to gay couples and families will break the budget, finally speaks volumes of the real reasons why the rights of gay couples have been denied. He finally said it. If this is the case, then the gay community is very large, so large that he ought to worry about their vote. Pay attention here, there is a large faction of the straight community that does believe that all people should be able to live here, raise a family here and enjoy what Pittsburgh has to offer, which personally, I believe Pittsburgh offers a lot. These are just my thoughts, and impressions I get from the people that I talk to both gay and straight in the Pittsburgh community.
    I often wish that more neighbors of gay couples and families would come out and speak about their experiences. This would shoot the florist in the strip district theory of “I will employ them , however not live with them theory” right in the a$$. I am a straight woman who reads Sue's blog on a semi-regular basis. Not regular because I don't read any blog on a regular basis due to time constraints. I truly want to keep up with my community, the trials and tribulations of everyone and that is why I read what I can when I can. I don't know if I have added any insight or possibly told you all what you already know. I did want to say that there are members of the community that support you all in your legal endeavors regardless.

  • Anon,
    What is appalling are politicians who ARE gay and stay in the closet while claiming they are our allies. The secret that dare not speak its name and all that. But it doesnt stop there. There are local celebrities, artists, musicians, comedians, writers, educators, business leaders and people of faith who are happy to accept the mantle of “ally” (and all the perks that comes with it — like gay gigs, gay applause, gay investments, parades, rallies, tee shirts, Kerry Stoner awards) but hide in the closet themselves.
    If our leaders and our visionaries stay in the closet, how can you expect the average gay to come out? How can you expect the average “ally” to not secretly flinch when someone takes their support a step too far? Homophobia is deeply embedded in Pittsburgh's closeted gay community and until we start shining the light on those who slip in and out depending on their personal needs, we are not going to get much traction.
    This theme keeps coming up. Maybe someone in Pittsburgh needs to start outing these homophobic homosexuals? Drag them out of the closet so they can shrink into the puny creatures they really are. But that won't happen because they have power and privilege and legislative votes needed by the gay community to make the grand leap forward to “tolerance” HA. The internet does it for us because you can just pick you local homophobic homosexual and do a little google to turn up something that identifies them as gay.
    We do need more bridges with the straight communities, but not the fake allies. I think Sue is wrong about Steel City Stonewall Democrats which actually endorses some of these homophobic homosexuals (and endorsed the Mayor). It is against their own self interest to stand up to the closet queens. I think PFLAG is the way to go. We need moms and dads to speak up for their gay children and their gay siblings. Step away from politics and make this about relationships. Sorry, Sue, but endorsing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was just the most stupid move in the history of this organization. They have a long way to go to offset the damage that little brainstorm created.

  • Sue- Actually, I know nothing about the trip you've mentioned except what you've posted. Who is chartering the bus and beyond last weekend's events is there any further pre-planning happening to orient people who may be unfamiliar with the lobbying process? (Speaking of updated and timely material needed.)
    Coincidentally the graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh also has a bus scheduled for March 17 and I intend to go with that group. I'm hoping I can get members of the fledgling Queer Grad Students Network to join me that day. I'll keep you posted on our activities. It would be nice if those who are going could coordinate plans for the day.
    I couldn't agree more with you about the necessity of transparency in advocacy groups. There's the other edge of the sword that can make the issue complicated- we can't give away our cards to those who would use them against us by publishing our intentions too broadly. However, simply having regular meetings, advance notice for events, and local leaders drumming up participation (and helping to make decisions) would make things easier for everyone, it seems. It's a lot more hassle on the front end but I can't see how it could be more necessary.
    Not living in the capital or largest city, it’s important that Pittsburghers are involved in keeping Pittsburghers involved. There’s a few here who I think would fit that bill- I know of at least one lady who’s kept in touch with me since last Pride, when I expressed interest in getting involved in some activism. Those are the folks who should be sending out emails and making phone calls and getting involved in co-ordinating with the larger, state-wide organizations like Equality PA. It would give the rest of us a feeling of ownership- a sense that what we are being asked to do is for our own benefit. Feeling represented- whether as women, lesbians, people of color, or simply as Pittsburghers- is perhaps the most important thing.
    Happy V-day, y’all.

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