Any group that wants folks to care about elections has to be caring about the communities and their people outside of election season – and then show the connection between the issues people are facing at the local and state government. We also see turnout increase when non-traditional candidates step forward; we’ve seen this across the district with women, black candidates, and even LGBTQ candidates stepping up to run.
This is the next post of our 2022 primary election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com. We welcome candidates at all levels of government across the entire Commonwealth
By participating, candidates are saying that they
- must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
- identify as pro-choice
- must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results
I first met Sean Meloy when he was working in Pittsburgh in 2016 for the DNC. He asked me to have coffee. We both belong to an online community, but had never connected in person. We met at the former Arnold’s Tea House on the Northside in a nice September afternoon. I remember swapping stories about our experiences as recipients of the James G. Fulton Fellowship that placed us both into political internships, about ten years apart. He interned with Mike Doyle (I think). I interned with Rick Santorum. It was a match made in queer heaven. He accepted my invitation to participate in the AMPLIFY project.
What struck me that day was his intellect and his savvy. And over the years as I’ve watched his career evolve and continued to get to know him, that impression has remained firm. When I’ve gone to him with concerns or even clear disagreements, he doesn’t shut me out or shut me down. He may try to persuade me to see his side of things and I do the same. I’ve paid closer attention to the Victory Fund because of Sean’s involvement and that has opened my eyes to so many electoral realities I might otherwise have missed. It is fair to say that my relationship with Sean gave birth to this very Q&A series. I realized that if I didn’t know about all of these LGBTQ candidates, others might not as well.
The new Congressional District 17 is almost in my backyard and that’s literally not an exaggeration if you look at the map and find Manchester’s proximity to the district lines. So it matters very much to me. It will be hard fought in the General Election so I urge you to pay close attention to Sean’s responses and consider responses from other candidates for this particular seat at well.
Name: Sean Meloy
Office Held/Seeking: Candidate for US House of Representatives, PA-17
How do you describe your identity? I am a cisgender gay man.
Tell us about your district. What is a hidden gem most people might not know about?
- My district is expansive, including all of Beaver County, as well as northern and western Allegheny County, and parts of the south and eastern parts of the county outside of the city of Pittsburgh.
- One of the hidden gems of the district? In Allegheny, it has to be the Aspinwall Riverfront Park and the Allegheny River Trail. In Beaver County, Pinball PA is a personal favorite!
How has redistricting impacted your district? After redistricting, the 17th Congressional District is still a swing seat. The seat has largely stayed the same with several municipalities east of the city of Pittsburgh being added. The new district includes all of Penn Hills, Churchill, Braddock Hills, Edgewood, Wilkinsburg, Forest Hills, and most of Swissvale. As a result, it moved from an “R+2” advantage to a “D+1” advantage. However, Cook Political and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate this seat a toss-up. It will be one of the most important seats to keep in the 2022 Midterms.
Tell us about the first LGBTQIA+ person you knew and what impact they had on your life (initials, pseudonyms are fine)? Growing up, I didn’t know many LGBTQ people growing up. It’s one of the reasons I believe representation equals power. When we see people like us in positions of power, it brings out more LGBTQ people to become engaged in this community, who bring new, different, and important perspectives to our community and government.
Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. I’ve been on the Governor’s LGBTQ Commission for two terms and active with the Steel City Stonewall Democrats, serving on their board for the last few years. I’ve worked, helped identify and recruited many of the out LGBTQ candidates and elected officials in our region and provided guidance, not only as Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus of the Democratic Party, but also as the political director of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
We have many issues here in western PA that our fellow community members face across the Commonwealth and country – whether it being not having basic protections under the law against discrimination, being harassed, bullied, and even killed as so many of our trans sisters have been.
While out knocking doors, I’ve seen a lot more LGBTQ families than I think many people believe live in western PA. I think there is a hesitancy to a large degree to be “loud” about who we are because so many of us grew up not seeing LGBTQ leaders here in PA and being actively discouraged from coming out. I think that belief is slowly changing and we need to showcase our presence more – as we know that helps shift attitudes. So many people who are opposed to our equality say they don’t know any LGBTQ+ people; I know that if we engage as neighbors and help change some hearts and minds, that will be to our region and community’s long term benefit.
We also continue to have a high level of violence against our community, particularly trans women of color. The extremist rhetoric of the right-wing feeds this hatred. I will stand against this rhetoric and work to ensure support for the most vulnerable in our community – by working to bring resources and support.
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for Congress? How will you respond to those priorities? In Congress, my priorities for LGBTQ community will be the following:
- Passing the Equality Act: If elected, I would be the first LGBTQ member of Congress elected from PA and I will use my voice to advocate for the Equality Act. Additionally, I will advocate for advancing racial justice inclusive of voting protections.
- Healthcare: Healthcare must be accessible and affordable for all, as well as iinclusive of LGBTQ needs.
- Right to privacy: Our right to privacy must be protected. Protecting and codifying Roe v. Wade, must be a priority, in addition to Lawrence v. Texas, and marriage equality in statute.
- Good jobs: We need to increase good paying jobs, ideally with a union, that allows working people to live a life they deserve. No one should be working full
- Public Education: Protecting public education and the stopping the attacks on educators and LGBTQ students, which is on the rise
Are you absolutely committed to a fully inclusive Equality Act (including gender identity)? Would you vote for a version that focuses on sexual orientation and not gender identity? Fully inclusive or bust.
As a candidate for Congress and Vice-President for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, you are in a unique position to publcly hold out bisexual Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema accountable for her obstruction of key legislation, including civil rights. Many key civil rights, feminist, and LGBTQ organizations refuse to support Senator Sinema, but the Victory Fund has kicked that ball down the field to the 2024 election. What could she possibly do between now and then to offset the harm she’s inflicted on voting rights? What does the refusal to denounce her actions say to Black LGBTQ community members now? As a full-time candidate, I can only speak for myself. Voting rights are LGBTQ rights and if you limit voting rights, you are limiting our ability to choose who can fight for and with us, and who would actively cause us harm. Anyone who holds a procedural process, like the Filibuster, above passing voting rights, the Equality Act, or any other piece of legislation that has gone to die in the Senate from the US House isn’t acting in the people’s best interest and typifies the broken system we have in Washington DC.
The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. Pennsylvania has no law protecting marriage equality, second-parent adoption, nondiscrimination, or similar important rights. If SCOTUS overturns or waters down Roe v Wade and the ‘penumbra of privacy’ protecting us, what do you anticipate happening in Pennsylvania and nationally? Right now, we have no real protections for LGBTQ people, reproductive freedom, or other privacy issues at the state or federal level if they are overturned at the Supreme Court this summer. We need to fight for these rights to be enshrined in statute at both state and national levels. It is not fear mongering to say that people, especially women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other minorities would face an even more difficult reality if the few protections and rights are taken away. That is exactly why we need more diverse voices in government – our communities are the ones that feel the urgency to act on these important issues.
I don’t think Harrisburg has the will to move forward on Infrastructure funding. Convince me otherwise. People have lost faith in the government passing basic and much-needed policy, like infrastructure, largely because of an extremist wing controlling the Republican Party. Even common sense and good for the country / our people legislation, is opposed if it comes from a Democratic initiative. I’ll fight in Washington DC to ensure investments from the infrastructure bill continue to come to Western PA, as there is plenty of work to be done. The 2022 elections could also help break the logjam in Harrisburg – there are several competitive state house seats in this congressional district that could help change who is in charge.
Anyone who holds a procedural process, like the Filibuster, above passing voting rights, the Equality Act, or any other piece of legislation that has gone to die in the Senate from the US House isn’t acting in the people’s best interest and typifies the broken system we have in Washington DC.
Voter turnout is a significant concern, especially for municipal/local elections. What advice would you offer to organizations and groups concerned with turnout in Western Pennsylvania? My advice would be, “Don’t stop working – authentically, in the community.” I’ve advocated for turnout efforts inside the Democratic Party for years, and we know it works – but we need to show up all the time, not just in election season. Any group that wants folks to care about elections has to be caring about the communities and their people outside of election season – and then show the connection between the issues people are facing at the local and state government. We also see turnout increase when non-traditional candidates step forward; we’ve seen this across the district with women, black candidates, and even LGBTQ candidates stepping up to run.
How can supporters get involved with campaigns while practicing social distancing and other protocols? We have a short primary here, so we are already engaging voters and will be knocking doors through November. We wear masks and make sure to stand 6 feet from the doors we knock, and never go inside. You can go to seanmeloy.com/volunteer to help out with doorknocking, texting, calls, or social media support!
Finally, what are three reasons people should vote for you/support your campaign?
- I am a new and authentic voice for middle and working class people that will always put their interests first and bring the new perspective of a millennial LGBTQ person. A majority of Congress are millionaires and I’m not a millionaire, I’m proud to bring my voice forward at a time like this.
- I have the most experience of any candidate running when it comes to all aspects of Congress. I have worked on Capitol Hill and understand its process (and problems), I’ve fought for the “good guys” in the advocacy space and seen the influence of special interests, and I understand how elections impact who is in government and what you are able to do – and how to win them.
- I’m a pragmatic progressive voice that has been doing the work here in Western PA and understand its uniqueness and how to organize to advance progressive issues and candidates.
Tell us about your endorsements
- LGBTQ+ Victory Fund;
- Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
- AFGE, Local 1716
- Steel City Stonewall Democrats
- Young Democrats of Allegheny County
- State Senator Lindsey Wiliams
- Pennsylvania State Representative Scott Conklin
- Virginia Delegate Danica Roem
- Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus
- Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor
- Bellevue Mayor Val Pennington
- Bellevue Council President Jodi Cerminara
- Bellevue Council Representative Jillian Edmondson
- Sharpsburg councilmembers Carrie Tongram and Sarah Ishman
- Jim DePoe, President of Steel City Stonewall Democrats and labor leader
- Crafton Councilmember Vincent Ridilla
- Wheeling, West Virginia Councilmember Rosemary Ketchum
- Community leaders Michele Boyle, Tracy Baton, Angie Valvano, Tyler Titus, Lissa Geiger Shulman, and Daniel Smith;
- Valerie Fleisher, Mt. Lebanon School Board Member and State Democratic Committee Member
- Elizabeth Dunn, Shaler Area School Board Member;
- Jessica Semler, Etna Councilmember;
- Autumn Monaghan, Chair of Harrison Township Democratic Party;
- Jim Obergefell, LGBTQ+/Civil Rights Advocate, Obergefell v. Hodges
- State Democratic Committee Members: Jennifer Buchanan Rapach, Abigail Gardner, Rob Frank, Paul McKrell, Jess McCurdy, Barbara Behrend Ernsberger
Please list your social media accounts and your donation links.
- Campaign Website Link: SEANMELOY.COM
- Campaign Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/SeanMeloyPA
- Campaign Twitter Handle: @MeloySM
- Campaign Instagram Handle: @seanmeloyforcongress
- Volunteer Link: sean4pa.us/volunteer
- ActBlue Link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/seanmeloy
So many people who are opposed to our equality say they don’t know any LGBTQ+ people; I know that if we engage as neighbors and help change some hearts and minds, that will be to our region and community’s long term benefit.
- you must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
- identify as pro-choice
- you must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results
Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here. Responses from this election cycle are listed below in the order they were returned by the campaign.
- Q&A With NaTisha Washington, Candidate for PA House District 24
- Q&A With Jerry Dickinson, Candidate for U.S. Congress PA-12
- Q&A with Emily Kinkead, Candidate for PA House District 20
- Q&A with John Fetterman, Candidate for US Senate
- Q&A with La’Tasha Mayes, Candidate for PA House District 24
- Q&A with Jessica Benham, Candidate for PA House District 36
- Q&A with Deja Alvarez, Candidate for PA House District 182
- Q&A with Summer Lee, Candidate for US Congress PA-12
- Q&A with Sean Meloy, Candidate for US Congress PA-17
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