Five Year Anniversary of a Public Hearing Should Generate More Activism in Pennsylvania

Tell us about a time when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped.

Five years ago today, Allegheny County Council held a public hearing on a non-discrimination ordinance which included sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

You can read 78 pages of public testimony here.

Some of it is brilliant, some of it is atrocious – all of it is important, was important for the members of Council to hear so they could cast an informed vote. Ultimately, the ordinance passed 8-6 on July 1, 2009.  At that point, Allegheny County was the 15th municipality to pass this type of legislation. In 2014, we have over 30 municipalities, but no statewide ordinance.

It turned out as I hoped because the ordinance passed after rigorous public debate. Plus, there were some amusing  sidebars which Ledcat and I captured in an entertaining exchange. It isn’t the way you expect it if there aren’t some kookie maneuvers by our semi-allies. And, man, was I mouthy back then.

That is the major issue with HB 300 which would extend similar protections statewide – one man, Daryl Metcalfe, is preventing residents from testifying at a public hearing. He won’t allow other members of the House to hear your testimony, your stories, your experiences or your voice. That is not how it is supposed to work.

The legislation has a record number of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Public support is over 70% among Pennsylvania adults. And one man has the bill by a throttlehold because of his own opinions. That’s not democracy, it is not a republic and it is not America. That’s a tyranny and there doesn’t seem to be a single person who can do anything about it.

Don’t get me wrong – people are fighting the good fight, but the alliances haven’t changed and maybe that’s part of the problem? I don’t know.  Maybe we need some tremendous act of statewide civil disobedience – hold all of the seats at all of the Chik-fil-A’s hostage until Metcalfe stops holding the bill hostage? Show up first thing, order something and take a seat. Relieve each other in shifts. Don’t let anyone else sit down, but don’t interfere with business. If they boot us out for participating in a gay rights protest, we’ve proved the point about public accommodation, right? They aren’t booting us out for not paying or being disruptive after all – we are paying customers.

Here was something lovely about that day – we met Franco Harris.

Franco Harris Pittsburgh
Franco Harris, Laura Dunhoff and Miranda Vey.



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