LGBT Activists Say Amazon Should Avoid Pennsylvania For Lack of Statewide Protections

No Gay, No Way
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When I first heard about this effort a few months ago, I was intrigued – holding Amazon accountable to its own policy of affirming LGBT rights by choosing a new location (HQ2) in a state that has statewide nondiscrimination policies.

Pennsylvania does not. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia do, but the state does not.

“Employees, their families, and customers may work within a city, but they may live in a neighboring community,” said Conor Gaughan, campaign manager for the “No Gay? No Way!!” campaign. “Without statewide protections, we are asking these LGBT citizens to give up their rights and protections on their commute beyond the city line. And without a statewide nondiscrimination law, there is no guarantee that a city ordinance won’t be struck down by a discriminatory state law.”

Pittsburgh is a classic example of how municipal protections can be effective BUT fail to ‘trickle down’ to nearby communities. Our City Council extended local protections based on sexual orientation in 1990, followed by a backdoor move to cover gender identity in 1997 – a move that was clarified in 2014. Erie County followed suit in 2002. Allegheny County came next in 2009. Most recently, Mt Lebanon Borough (within Allegheny County) unanimously passed an ordinance in 2017. That’s 4 in the course of 27 years.

Statewide, 45 of 2562 municipalities have extended these protections.

It took 19 years for these protections to expand from the City of Pittsburgh to Allegheny County. That’s pretty glacial. And considering that Allegheny County rescinded domestic partner benefits for same-sex families within a few weeks of a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, just two years after offering those benefits, it seems fair to say that we are slow to extend benefits and quick to take them away.

It remains unaddressed by the Peduto Administration if that decision violates City contracts with the County. Pittsburgh has also refused to comply with media requests to provide copies of the Amazon application materials. If Pittsburgh won’t disclose their own information and can’t work with Allegheny County to maintain something as simple as domestic partner benefits, do we really foresee a region – even with new Congressional districts – that suddenly becomes affirming, much less welcoming? If the most progressive hubs are not engaging around basic issues, how are we defining progressive?

Ask these 250+ folks what they think about it.

It doesn’t matter that Pittsburgh or Philadelphia have done well in terms of LGBTQ equality indicators – they have zero impact on the suburbs, exburbs or surrounding region. It is a really big deal. It is a result of decades of political dynasties, socially conservative Democrats, and the erosion of progressive values on things like fracking, safe drinking water, Administration leaders disregard for the #MeToo movement by sleeping with subordinates, the false wall between church and state, our Bishop suing Obamacare, hiring loyalists, and a myriad of other faux progressive actions that illustrate quite clearly that certain white gay men and lesbians have value and everyone else does not, especially QTPOC and even more especially queer black women.

Is that strongly worded? Oh.

Pennsylvania does not deserve Amazon. The state leaders we keep sending back to Harrisburg can’t get the work done. Their ignorance, foolishness, and greed should cost us Amazon because LGBTQ people have been saying since forever that this an economic issue. We are not economically competitive. And we need to take that reality to the ballot box in state races this year. We need to stop pointing at Daryl Metcalfe and start shaking some Costas and Wagners out of their complacency and elect actual progressives.

Before you get worked up in a frenzy about my lack of Pittsburgh pride, remember this:

In 2016, PayPal canceled plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte after the state passed a law that prevented cities from creating non-discrimination policies to protect transgender people. The center had been expected to employ 400 people. The state eventually repealed the law, but PayPal stayed away.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Sauce for the Tar Heel is sauce for the Yinzer? Anyway …

And while Amazon is imperfect, it is absolutely important to hold them accountable to their public commitment around LGBTQ rights.

While Amazon’s request for proposals for its second headquarters does not mention the LGBTQ community, it does include a section saying that it requires “a compatible cultural and community environment” that includes “the presence and support of a diverse population.”

Read more at USA Today. (The article focuses on city/states with no protections, versus our unique situation of local but not statewide protections. I don’t know why No Gay, No Way made that choice.)

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