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View Article  One Teeny Update on Will of Council and State Marriage Amendment

As you recall from Tuesday, City Council voted 7-0 to support state legislation including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity/gender expression" into the classes protected under the PA Human Relations Act.  Motznik and Payne were out of the room during the vote, hence the 7.

My sources tell me that both Motznik and Payne co-sponsored this resolution, as did all of the other members of Council except Ricky Burgess.  Burgess did vote in favor of the legislation.  So, I am told, it is practically the same thing as a unanimous endorsement.

I guess. What do you think? 

I'm still waiting to hear what happened in Harrisburg with the marriage amendment.  You know that's one thing that really frustrates me -- we get these "hurry, hurry, hurry" messages from the lobbying groups with very concrete deadlines by which we must take action.  Then, days and days go by with no follow-up, not even a simple acknowledgement.  In the information age, that's unacceptable.  We need better infrastructure.  There's no weekly, much less daily, gay media source in Western Pennsylvania.  Websites aren't being updated and voice mail boxes are full.  Email messages go unacknowledged. 

Here's what I would have liked on Wednesday.  A blast email:

Thanks for all of your email messages, letters and calls.  This week, we'll be visiting with your elected officials to discuss this important issue and carry your messages.  To keep up to date with the status of the legislation, visit our website at www ...

That's long been a downside to local LGBT everything -- communication does not filter from the top decision makers on down to the everyday homo. 

The good news is that Diane Gramley hasn't updated me, either. 

View Article  Live Blogging My Tuesday Afternoon

3:15 PM Leave office and drop promotional literature off at several local businesses.  Buy King Cake to share with office on Wednesday. 

4:00 PM Arrive at Hoi Polloi.  Artfully distribute promotional literature.  Meet Jessica's other brother.  Realize lack of eating since dinner on Monday so order curried pumpkin soup and grilled cheese sandwich. 

4:15 PM Finish eating.  Soup is OMG. 

4:30 PM Read text of HB 1400 that was helpfully sent to me by Dan Frankel's staff.  Try to find exactly how religious organizations get exempted from discriminating against queer people.  Get confused.

4:45 PM Order a coffee beverage to kick start analytical skills.  Delicious.  Still confused.

4:50 PM  Email contacts in gay politics to ask for help.  Email Frankel's people for explanation.  Email high school buddy to set up coffee date.

4:54 PM  Support local business and local agricultural industry by ordering muffin. 

4:55 PM No response from contacts in gay politics.  Still confused.  Coffee beverage still very hot. 

View Article  "Will of Council" on Anti-Discrimination Legislation Passes 7-0

From my ace source comes word that the legislation endorsing the statewide effort to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in the Human Relations Act passed 7-0.  Motznik and Payne weren't in the room and didn't vote. 

Deasy asked to be added as a cosponsor, offering that he was behind on his email as a reason for his delay in doing so.  Huh.

Now here's the interesting part.  Reverend Burgess voted in favor of the legislation because he's against discrimination AND because the bills have exemptions for religious entities.  Its awesome when the law meant to protect people from discrimination lays out who gets the freedom "to" discriminate.  Awesome.

I have a call into Dan Frankel's office for clarification on what those exemptions mean. More on that later.


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View Article  Update from City Council: Two Members not so "Willing" to support the gay community

From our friends at Steel City Stonewall Democrats comes word that 7 out of 9 members of City Council have agreed to support the proposed "Will of Council" which essentially gives a big thumbs up to state legislation that would include "sexual orientation" and gender identity and expression" as protected classes under the Human Relations Act.  These protections already exist within the City; this action underscores that those protections have strengthened the City

Two aren't supporting it.  That would be Councilman Dan Deasy of District 2 (which includes the neighborhoods of Banksville, Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Duquene Heights, East Carnegie, Eliott, Esplen, Fairywood, Mount Washington, Oakwood, Ridgemont, and Sheraden).  That would also be Councilman Ricky Burgess of District 9 (includes the neighborhoods of East Hills, East Liberty, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln/Lemingon/Belmar, And Point Breeze North).

I can only speculate as to why either man would choose to stand silently by while this opportunity passes.  Reverend Burgess is a former board member of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force so it is inconceivable that he not be aware of the discrimination so many members of our community have faced in the housing market and on the job.  Surely, he must have absorbed that the stigma of AIDS is deeply intertwined with the stigma of being gay and that a just society does not allow vulnerable individuals to go without a place to live or the means to feed their family simply because they don't fit in. 

I believe unanimity is important on this issue.  I have oft stated that Pittsburgh is a good place to be gay and that Pittsburgh's gay community strengthens the entire region.  A hallmark of my belief rests on the legacy of this local piece of legislation that could.  We have inherited a Mayor who does not believe in civil unions, but we do have the fortune to stand upon the shoulders of many activists who worked tirelessly to achieve this reform. 

I'll be at work tomorrow when Council votes on this.  Maybe someone can email me the outcome? 

View Article  Prove the AFA of PA right!

Diane Gramley might be a bit worried about how awesome you guys have been about calling your State Senators to oppose the  so-called protection of marriage amendment. 

Here's what she shared with me today:

Senator Michael Brubaker is looking for co-sponsors of SB 1250, the Marriage Protection Amendment bill.  Click here for a news release we issued earlier today ? marriage is being assaulted to our north, east and south.  We WILL be next, if steps are not taken to protect marriage.  

 Those who oppose this bill and would like to see same-sex marriage legalized are bombarding Senate offices asking them not to co-sponsor the bill. 

 Do they mean business?  Equality Advocates and the ?Value All Families Coalition? are planning a statewide week of action next week to gain support for passing HB 1400 which would add ?sexual orientation and gender identity or expression? to the PA Human Relations ActI can guarantee opposing SB 1250 will now be part of that statewide week of action.

OK, so she shared it with her entire email distribution list.  Having been part of that list for over two years, I sense a shift in tone. Gramley knows that people who might feel a little so-so on gay marriage are likely to be more sympathetic to extending civil protections in employment, housing and so forth to LGBT individuals and families. 

So keep up the good work.  If you haven't done so, call your Senator and ask s/he to oppose the Marriage Amendment.  Ask them about the PA Human Relations Act. 

Diane thinks you mean business.  Prove her right.

View Article  The PA Gay Marriage Amendment: Be Vigilant

In today's Tribune Review, I found ample evidence of the need for our entire community and our allies to remain vigilant.  It is a simple letter to the editor and I'm sure no one is surprised to read a pro-Catholic/anti-gay marriage letter there.  Nonetheless, this letter isn't guised as some hysterical screed invoking horrific images of a thunderous God striking down the homo sinners. 

In his letter "Gays & the church" (Jan. 16 and PghTrib.com), Anthony Brown of New York City indicates that all gay couples want is tax, health, pension, visitation and death protections that are a part of marriage.

Currently in Pennsylvania there are no limitations on visitation rights and no restrictions on who can benefit in a will. Tax, health and pension benefits are economic in nature. It is interesting that what seems most important to the author is the economic "benefits" he could gain if his relationship were to be legally recognized as being equivalent to marriage.

If people start becoming partners so that they can share economic benefits, Social Security, Medicare and pension plans will become bankrupt. Employer-subsidized health care will cease to exist as people claim to be couples in order to exploit benefits. Rather than become embroiled in the need to determine who is and who is not a legitimate couple, companies will simply not offer spousal benefits to anyone.

Brown referred to spiritual intolerance and said it's "time for the Catholic Church to reach out to its gay and lesbian members, not marginalize them."

While Catholic and most other Christian churches do not support a gay lifestyle, they do not turn away gays and do not condone negative behavior toward those who make that choice.

Christian churches uphold the values that are documented in the Bible, which include compassion for others, and confirm that marriage is a lifelong bond between man and woman, based on love and respect, not based on economic benefits.

I applaud the Diocese of Greensburg in supporting the proposed marriage amendment for Pennsylvania.

Daniel Merkovsky

For every such letter published, we must have multiple contacts with our elected officials and the general public.  We need people to understand our issues and our lives and our stories. 

Contact you senator today.  You have to do it before Monday.  It will take just a few moments of your time. 

Now I'm going to enjoy a few chuckles at the expense of Mr. Merkovsky's oblivion with regard to marriage as an economic pact. 



View Article  Doug Shields Introduces "Will of Council" in support of statewide LGBT discrimination protections

Just got word that City Council President Doug Shields will introduce a "Will of the Council" on Tuesday that will express the Council's support of HB 1400 which, along with SB 761, will amend the PA Human Relations Act to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" as protected classes.

From Council President Shields' statement:

The legislation will amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to include anti-discrimination language that reflects the same anti-discriminatory language the City of Pittsburgh passed into law (Applicable Code attached as amended by Ord. 20-1992, eff. 5-28-92; Am. Ord. 3-1997, eff. 2-7-97).  Our passage of this bill will support Pittsburgh's State delegation in their efforts guarantee the same equal protection o ur City residents have across Pennsylvania .

This is an important gesture and one that deserves a unanimous vote.  Please pick up your phone and ask your City Council Representative to support this Will of Council. 

I am very pleased that my State Rep (Chelsa Wagner) and State Senator (Wayne Fontana) are sponsoring the state legislation.  I hope my City Councilwoman, Tonya Payne, votes in support of this legislation.

People shouldn't be denied employment or housing because they are gay or they don't conform to gender normative behavior.  This is pretty basic stuff and Pittsburgh's been ahead of the curve for over a decade. 

Here's the resolution:

Will of Council in support of Pennsylvania State House bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761, The Statewide LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill


WHEREAS, current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog, but not sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; and


WHEREAS, House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, thereby providing basic protection to ensure fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians; and


WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh already protects its residents against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression through local ordinance passed almost two decades ago; and


WHEREAS, twenty states, including the neighboring states of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York already have laws protecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from discrimination, and thirteen states also prohibit discrimination against transgender people through legislation or case law; and


WHEREAS, 462 Fortune 500 companies, including all 27 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Pennsylvania, prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation, in recognition of the fact that attracting and retaining the best workers is critical, and that employers with a reputation for respecting diversity are at a competitive advantage with these protections; and


WHEREAS, HB 1400/SB 761 has the support of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Realtors Association, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as 70% of Pennsylvania voters surveyed in a November 2007 poll of likely voters conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research; and


WHEREAS, the prime sponsor of HB 1400 is Rep. Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh, who is joined in supporting the legislation by at least 70 cosponsors, including at least 14 other state representatives from southwestern Pennsylvania;


WHEREAS, the identical Senate bill, SB 761, has at least 22 cosponsors including six Senators representing Allegheny County;


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Pittsburgh City Council calls upon the Pittsburgh delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support the passage of HB 1400/SB 761 at the earliest opportunity; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution shall be transmitted to the Mayor of Pittsburgh, to all members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and to the Governor of Pennsylvania.

A shout out to Shields' Chief of Staff, Selena Schmidt, for her wonkish skills in helping me find the "gender identity and gender expression" phrasing in the City Code. 

View Article  LGBT Family Diversity Festival
View Article  City Paper: nice write up on PrideFest changes

This week's City Paper advises readers on recent changes in local PrideFest activities, including new management, a new location and the expansion to a week-long event.  As we reported earlier, the Delta Foundation is sponsoring a community meeting to unveil the proposed changes and generate community investment in the larger effort (Tuesday, February 5, 7-9 pm - follow the link for more details).

The CP article is a nice update, especially for straight allies who may not be aware of the changes. 

I'm looking forward to the meeting. 

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