UPDATE: New information has been coming in from various sources. Allegedly, Drozd and Macy are not going to vote for this. Finnerty is a maybe (412) 350-6540 [email protected]. He represents District 4 (Crafton, Robinson, Bridgeville, McKees Rocks).
Also, another member of County Council may be threatening not to show up which could derail a majority. That is Councilman Futules from District 7 (412) 350-6555 [email protected]. (Oakmont, Penn Hills, Plum, Verona).
Here's where you can find your district. http://www.alleghenycounty.us/council/dist.aspx
The amended amendment language has been released by the Coalition for the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance (the members of this coalitioni have not been announced but includes Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Equality Advocates, Delta Foundation and the Women's Law Project, I think).
NOTE: I received an email version. It has not yet been posted online, but should be available at the Steel City Stonewall site soon. www.steel-city.org
OK, so basically they want to further amend the language of the ordinance to follow the established practice in Philadelphia. This means there is no registry of anti-gay religious organizations and, thus, removes the ability to discriminate. That's
good supposed to be good in terms of constitutionally acceptable, but it remains unclear how that benefits the LGBTQ community.
The bad? Well, the amended amentment exempts Sectarian, Religious, Charitable and Fraternal organization from complying with the Human Relations Ordinance. It also means those with public funding (your tax dollars) can still discriminate.
The caveat to that little unpleasantry is that individual contracts related to the funding can include a requirement to comply with the law. Back door politics, but at least there's an option. This is what's going on Philadelphia
and it seems to work. It remains unclear how well it is working because there is little research and the legal participants in the working group are not at the table right now.
In the words of the Coalition:
This ordinance meets the highest standard in trans-inclusive language in the Commonwealth. That being said we believe that we should SUPPORT amending the amendment as proposed by the coalition and PASSING County Council bill 4201-08. We believe that this ordinance will protect a majority of LGBT citizens of Allegheny County against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
This solution to the original unconstitutional amendments
is workable might get the votes and came about in consultation with Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato (I'm sure all your calls nudged him.) Important to note that the ordinance provides protections based on gender identity and gender expression which is critically important to our community. I understand that concerns about dropping this language came up early in the discussion, but soon faded away as the issue turned to how to preserve the freedom of religious organizations to practice their homophobia unfettered by the law. This seems to be the best compromise and a very workable solution that creates the socio-political and economic climate so vital to our region's growth. This seems to be the only compromise that will scrape a majority vote together, but it is not a done deal. It *is* clear to me that our elected officials fail to see the connection between a community that strengthens the workplace and housing resources makes for overall better economic conditions.
So, the message from the Working Group is that we support amending the amendment and passage of the amended amended ordinance. The critical part of the meeting tomorrow will be the outcome of the amending the amendment process. Got that?
Should you still make calls? You bet. Call 'em up and let them know that we want an ordinance that is constitutional and you
would might accept the Philadelphia model to protect the majority of LGBTQ citizens in Allegheny County. Your calls to the four folks I wrote about earlier (Drozd, Burn, Robinson and Macy) are especially useful.
Not sure yet who will introduce the amendment to the amended ordinance, but common sense says it will be Amanda Green or Rich Fitzgerald. I spoke with organizers just minutes ago and was told it hasn't been determined yet.
The coalition should certainly be commended for their hard work, but I want to make sure to thank each of you who really demonstrated ownership of your destiny (dare I say your existance?) by stepping forward and letting your voice be heard. Our community is at the center of a virtual whirlwind of legislation and issues on the local, state and federal levels. Channeling the frustration over Eichelberger's comment into telephone calls for a proactive piece of legislation is the exact opposite of what he hoped to accomplish with his hate-laced rhetoric. Kudos to everyone who took control and reframed the conversation in our own terms.
Rest assured, this is not over. There is still the vote tomorrow. And then on Thursday, there will be other votes to address, particularly HB 300. There will also need to be oversight within the County to ensure that the contracts are requiring compliance with the law. I would personally believe this is important with regard to CYF foster care contracts — with 20,000+ Pennsylvania children in the foster care system, there is simply not the luxury of debating whether gay people can be good foster parents simply based on their sexual orientation, assuming they meet the other criteria.
Let me put in one last plug before I go off to cook dinner for Ledcat. Quite a few folks have asked who are the leaders involved in this and how to get in touch with them. I say — join the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Not only will you learn who is who in the local LGBTQ advocacy world, but you will literally be at the table and helping make the decisions.
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