I believe it is extremely important to have various representatives of the LGBTQ in elected office as well as in the public view. I believe it provides a role model for younger generations. When I was growing up in the 90s, my first experience with the LGTBQ was from MTV and Will and Grace. It felt like I had to choose between being openly gay or being successful. In the 90s, there were no openly LGBTQ role models for kids in Western Pennsylvania. – Edward Alo
A few days after Election Day 2019, the Victory Fund released a list of known openly LGBTQ (self-identified, of course) candidates who won their offices. They identified two in Western Pennsylvania. After I published that information, I found three more for a total of five (so far) and who knows how many others who weren’t registered with the Victory Fund. If you know someone who should be on this list, please message them to message me privately. Loosely speaking, I’m interested in openly LGBTQ candidates who won their office in the Western portion of Pennsylvania.
So I created a political Q&A for these specific candidates who are mostly brand new to municipal politics. Four of the five have agreed to participate so far. And we’ll be using their responses as a launch pad to explore equality issues in their municipalities. Keep your eyes out for our rural LGBTQ organizing Q&A’s rolling out in this same time frame. It is all exciting stuff and worth diving into, I promise.
This is Edward Alo, an openly gay man who with his husband will be joining the Crafton Borough Council. I first made contact with Edward when mutual friends told me about his experiences with anti-LGBTQ bias during his campaign. I was pleased that he and his husband were able to successfully win their elections. Scroll down to read all posts in this series.
Your Name: Edward R. Alo
Your Age: 30
Your Pronouns: he/his/him
How do you describe your identity? I would best identify as openly gay, cis gendered male.
You recently won election to Crafton Borough Council Tell us about your district and the communities you will represent. I was elected to fill a two-year midterm vacancy. I am an at-large councilman, representing the entire borough of Crafton.
Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district, the public schools, and the region. My husband and I have met many of of the openly LGBTQ members in our borough. Prior to Election Day, we canvassed the borough to meet the residents, and, as we canvassed, we discovered that there was a sizable LGBTQ community in Crafton. And, the population is continuing to grow. I have come to think of Crafton, as well as refer to Crafton, as a little gayberhood.
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for your office? How will you respond to those priorities? The members of the LGBTQ community in Crafton want to be heard and be treated as equals. Prior to Election Day, elected officials in Crafton were dismissive and discriminatory towards new residents of Crafton who are a part of the LGBTQ. We want to make Crafton an inclusive community for all groups including the LGBTQ. We intend to eliminate this discrimination by borough offices and give every resident of the community an equal voice in Crafton.
Why did you decide to run for this office? I decided to run for this two-year term in June 2019 when the former councilman had stepped down. Prior to his resignation, the council considered an ordinance to hire a new police officer. This sparked significant feedback from the community. The ordinance was initially defeated, one could say because of the community feedback and the lack of justification by its proponents. After the councilmember’s resignation, council reconsidered the ordinance without advising the community prior to this reconsideration. This reconsideration was illustrative of an overarching theme in Crafton. More specifically, a lack of transparency and an absence of civility among Borough Council Members.
Tell me about your endorsements and supporters. I would describe our supporters as an eclectic group of members of the community, which included lifelong residents, new residents, current members of borough council, and former members of borough council.
What are your top legislative priorities for your first months in office? After my election, I discussed proposing an equal opportunity ordinance. At the last meeting, the current council instructed the solicitor to prepare an equal opportunity ordinance, prohibiting discrimination against the LGBTQ. I will push to ensure that this ordinance is ready to be considered by Council on the first meeting of 2020. Such an ordinance would permit Crafton to celebrate its diversity. I would also like to see Borough Council adopt bylaws on how it will operate its meetings as well as provide checks and balances on executive authority in the local government.
How did your identity as an openly LGBTQ person impact and inform your campaign? How will it impact and inform your tenure in office? I believe being openly gay was just a single part of me as a overall candidate. I was never ashamed of being openly gay or the fact that I was running with my husband. My husband and I will be able to ensure that members of the LGBTQ are truly represented by Borough Council.
How does intersectionality inform your work? I believe intersectionality is important for a local government to understand because people are not just a part of one group. I am a part of the millennial generation, I am gay, I am college education, and I am part of many more groups to voluminous to list. The more diverse the members are, the more it provides government with a myriad of difficult opinions to consider.
The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. How do municipal councils navigate personal religious freedom while resisting systemic oppression and control of underserved people? The concept of religious liberty laws is a complex legal issues because there is no concrete standard when the courts evaluate First Amendment issues. However, it is not the place of municipal governments to determine constitutionality; constitutionality is for the courts to decide. The constitutionality of the action should play into its consideration, but, overall, council should not permit the rights of the few should encumber the rights of the many whether it be under the guise of religious liberty laws or other civil liberties.
How does open and visible representation of different LGBTQ identities in elected office change the world? I believe it is extremely important to have various representatives of the LGBTQ in elected office as well as in the public view. I believe it provides a role model for younger generations. When I was growing up in the 90s, my first experience with the LGTBQ was from MTV and Will and Grace. It felt like I had to choose between being openly gay or being successful. In the 90s, there were no openly LGBTQ role models for kids in Western Pennsylvania.
Please tell us about your very first impression of Pittsburgh: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. So it is very hard for me to recall my very first impression. Now, I would say that the Pittsburgh-area is on its way toward becoming a progressive metro area like Columbus, Ohio.
Prior to Election Day, we canvassed the borough to meet the residents, and, as we canvassed, we discovered that there was a sizable LGBTQ community in Crafton. And, the population is continuing to grow. I have come to think of Crafton, as well as refer to Crafton, as a little gayberhood.
What Pittsburghers have influenced your life and work? I would say that my parents and family have had the primary influence my life and my work. They have always supported my dedication to helping others; whether it be in student organizations, as a teacher, or as an attorney.
Please tell us about the first LGBTQ person that you knew and what impact they had on your life. I had a friend at Duquesne University, and he was openly gay. He showed me that being gay did not have to define your life. Rather, being gay was just a small part of who you are as a human being. He showed me that you could be whatever type of person that you want to be. You could still like football and hockey and still watch Glee or Mean Girls.
What is your message to the LGBTQ youth who may not realize that people like them hold elected office? Be proud of who you are and don’t be afraid to search the internet. That’s how I found members of the LGBTQ who I could call my role models.
Where can readers find you on social media? I have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. But I mainly only use Facebook.
Thank you, Edward.
Other posts in this series