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View Article  UPDATE: Big Queer Rally

Reverend Janet Edwards has just confirmed that she will be speaking at the upcoming rally on January 10, 2009.  As you may recall, Janet was the target of a church trial because of her decision to preside at the wedding of two local lesbians.  She was cleared of those charges. 

I believe she will prove to be a powerful voice in the call for equality of all persons who are LGBTQ whether it be in terms of the freedom to marry or the freedom to work without fear of persecution for being gay. 

I hope that the rally will be well attended by persons of faith, particularly as Ms. Diane Gramley has been utilizing religion as a weapon in her quest againt any gay rights in Pennsylvania.  Please stand up for faith experiences grounded in equality, fairness and peace. 


Also, please note that I've added a little countdown clock to remind you of the upcoming rally.  Look in the right hand column.

View Article  The Pennsylvania Legislative Agenda and Hate Crimes

Today's Post-Gazette features a strong statement from State Senator Jim Ferlo on plans to expand Pennsylvania's Hate Crimes law to include additional protected classes, including ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.  These were part of a 2002 amendment which was recently overturned on procedural grounds. 

A hate crime makes certain crimes more serious when their motivation is based on .. well, hate toward a class of people. In Pennsylvania, those crimes include harassment, assault, murder, trespass, criminal mischief and arson.

If you burn down someone's house because they are Latino or Jewish, there is an understanding that the violence is much deeper than the arson itself. 

Hate crimes," Mr. Ferlo said, "can often be far more violent than typical crimes and attempt to dehumanize victims. By grading these offenses more strictly, I hope we can further discourage crimes based on hate as we continue to grow into a more open and accepting society."

Being targeted because you fit into a certain class of people sucks, period.  It sucks whether it is being the target of verbal taunts or assault.  Anyone who has been on the receiving end of said motivated attacks can attest to what I'm saying.

There has been opposition to expanding the protected classes because of the inclusion of the LGBTQ community as a protected class.  I guess some folks think its okay to kill a woman because she is a lesbian, but not because she is Jewish.  Hmmm.  OK, I'm exaggerating for the sake of my argument because there really are some people who fail to see that the underlying motivation of a crime can increase their impact on society.  Any murder is an assault on the entire community.  A murder motivated by group hate sends an especially chilling message to that particular strata in the community, but please don't forget that it has an impact on all of us. 

Let's be clear.  The wing-nuts in Pennsylvania don't want to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way, shape or form. They want unfettered access to pray away the gay even when their freedom to express their religious beliefs interferes with my freedom to, well, exist.  Hence, their cries of foul over the 2002 legislation drag out every possible tired excuse about impinging on their religious and speech freedoms. They have been working overtime to spread misleading messages about this legislation, including claims that it will create "thought" crimes.  The mislogic goes that hate is a thought, not an action.  Punishing someone for a thought is unconstitutional. 

Well, that's bullshit.  The violence perpetrated under Jim Crow could not be reduced to the loss of the individual life of the man hanging from the tree.  Lynching was an intentional act, intentional in the sense of sending a very clear message to others in that class of people about the societal expectations of the dominant culture.  The psychological damage was deliberative and reverberated far beyond the lives of the family members who lost their loved one. 

That's hate.  Pure, unadulterated hate.  It doesn't make it any less so when other groups that are outside of the dominant culture are targeted simply for the "crime" of existing.  Expanding the law to include more groups goes a long way to countering that message, reminding the entire community that we are all valued and should not be singled out based on some characteristic.  The claim that the current law is good enough is patently untrue for we already factor in motivation when measuring charges ... the law recognizes that murder committed by accident is different than a deliberately planned out murder, even if both actions result in the loss of life.   

Still, I am very conscious that there is an important distinction between expressing your opinions a la Diane Gramley in a lawful manner and deliberately harassing people.  This is a distinction that we count upon our law enforcement officers and the courts to uphold.  Frankly, I have some expectation that Ms. Gramley will uphold that distinction, too.  I despise her message and her tactics.  I do believe that she is culpable for sowing the seeds of intolerance toward gay people that leads to acts of hatred ... see thoughts do lead to actions ...yet, I am still willing to acknowledge her right to devote her entire life to her twisted little mission.  Just don't infringe on my rights.  She sends her minions into Allegheny County to stir up opposition to gay rights.  That's not a crime. And it is an action we can resist, fighting fire with fire so to speak, by rallying our own troops.

Members of our LGBTQ community are the targets of hate crimes here in Pennsylvania.  They are beaten up because they are gay - it happens in high schools every single day.  They are harassed in public.  They are accosted when trying to participate in a lawful activity such as festival or celebration.  These things happen and kudos to Senator Ferlo for putting this legislation on the front burner instead of behind the scenes as an attachment to some other bill.  A message against hate requires a public airing, not a furtive nod.

So what can you do?  Well, for starters, you can "join the impact" by attending the rally on January 10 and the County Council hearing on January 15.  We have strength in numbers.  Make no mistake, my friends and allies, if we turn out many hundred folks for both events, our state elected officials will take note even though it is a County issue.  Your attendance at both events will give Senator Ferlo, Representative Frankel and their allies the statistics they need to persuade their colleagues to vote in favor of the hate crimes legislation. 

The more often you come out, the bigger the difference you can make.

View Article  Big Queer Rally Set for Saturday, January 10 - Oakland

Here's the scoop ... there's going to be a BIG QUEER RALLY on Saturday, January 10 from 2 - 4 PM at the Schenley Quad in Oakland (near the libraries).  This is a follow up event to the Join the Impact rally in early November which turned out nearly 500 people. 

The focus of the rally is twofold.  The national goal is to bring attention to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a tie-in to the Proposition 8 issue.  Locally, however, we are much more concerned about the upcoming public hearing to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the Allegheny County Human Relations Act.  That hearing date is set for January 15, 2009 and has been the focus of vigorous attack by the rightwing (see previous posts). 

So please spread the word about the big queer rally.  Tell your friends and family.  Bring signs.  Bring the kids.  Bring your grandma.  Just be there and be present as part of the message that EVERYONE deserves equality and fairness. 

The event emcee is local comedian and actor Gab Bonesso.  Confirmed speakers include long-time LGBT ally and media pundit, John McIntire.  Other leaders from the faith community, the political world, the local business community and individuals who wish to share their stories of being discriminated against in the workplace, in housing or in public because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  If you would like to be a speaker, please email me sue @ sitnscoop.com and I'll hook you up with the appropriate folks on the organizing committee.

We cannot sit back in our comfortable, warm homes on January 10 and let other people stand up for us.  We cannot be "Prop 8ed" here in Allegheny County.  Be there and be part of the solution. 

View Article  Happy Anniversary to the Lesbians (and no, we are not going into the sex toy business)

Wow. Big 24 hours.  My story about Diane Gramley and the Allegheny County Anti-Discrimination Legislation was picked up by several national sites and my domain expires!  Can you believe that luck?  My "guy" is on it, though. And thanks to all of my wonderful blogging friends in Pittsburgh who sent me assorted "creative" messages informing me of the situation?  Next time a sex shop appears on my website -- text me please!  :-)

So, happy 3rd anniversary to us here at Lesbian Central.  I'm a fairly fickle person so it is peronally interesting to me that I've been doing this with fair consistency for three years (with the occasional much needed break).  We've had a lot of fun with all of the creative directions this project has generated, including opportunities to participate in Pam's House Blend, DailyKOS and LezGetReal even if we are very far down on the page. LOL.  And PageOneQ has been great about picking up our local stories.

Highlights, you ask?  In no particular order.

- Doug Shields' letter to Sally Kerns.  I love it when the calvary arrives and he did it with vigor and style. 

- The conclusion of the trial of Reverend Janet Edwards. I don't think we've heard the last of this incredible woman and leader in the community. 

-  Participating in the Bloggers Summit in DC.  What an energizing weekend.  I was agog with groupieness. 

- The election of Bruce Kraus to Pittsburgh City Council.  Bruce is the first openly gay member of this body and the second openly gay elected person in Western Pennsylvania.  (A regret is being unable to track down the first, a council member from tiny Wilkinsburg)

- The first ever Blog for Equality in Western Pennsylvania.  This brainchild of local straight blogger Bram Reichbaum, this brought together nearly 2 dozen local bloggers around one topic:  equality for everyone. 

- Celebrating 25 years of our own Lambda Foundation, the cornerstone of Pittsburgh's philanthropic community.  They've generated nearly $1 million in grants and been a part of every major and minor initiative in the community, sometimes as a catalyst and sometimes to keep vital services flowing smoothly. 

I'm sure there's much more, but I have to turn my attention to other things.  Our little story about intolerance v equality in Allegheny County is getting big play in the gay media.  Did you call you Councilperson yet?


View Article  AFA of PA targets Allegheny County Anti-Discrimination Legislation

c/p at Pam's House Blend

Surprise!  Diane Gramley, self-proclaimed spokesperson of the Pennsylvania hatefest known as the AFA and resident of Venango County, is bringing her show on the road to Allegheny County in Southwestern Pennsylvania to challenge legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of classes including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  Allegheny County is home to the City of Pittsburgh which already has such protections in place.  Statewide, legislation has been introduced and proponents hope to see movement in late winter/early spring. 

The Allegheny County legislation originally garnered 13 co-sponsors (out of 16 councilpersons), but Gramley's agitation efforts have been successful in driving three co-sponsors to jump ship.  Conventional wisdom is that the three conservative-leaning districits have been targeted by Gramley, but there is still reason to believe that the erstwhile sponsors may in fact vote for the legislation.

 The legislation establishes (and funds) a county Human Relations Commission with a goal to educate business owners, landlords and employers about the legislation and provide recourse and investigation to those who believe they have experienced discrimination. 

Gramley is using the typical weapons of hate:  misinformation and fear.  Her arsenal includes false claims that companies will be "required" to hire gay people (at the expense of good Christians).  She also purports that this threatens this could prevent the Boy Scouts from using government parks and buildings, building on the anger over a situation in Philadelphia wherein the Boy Scouts lost their government-subsidized rental property because of their ongoing discrimination against gay scouts and scout leaders, neatly ignoring all the efforts the Philadelphia elected officials made to minimize the fallout of this on the children themselves.  And, you won't be surprised to read, she brings out the tiresome threats of men invading women's bathrooms to lounge about in women's clothes and terrify the poor hapless Christian women who enter unknowingly. 

In short, Gramley's message is based on ignorance and fear.  But she's effective and not to be underestimated.  She uses email and a daily radio program to drive attention to this very specific issue.  She testifies as an "expert" with no identifiable source material, trying to deflect questions with vague references to health encyclopedias that don't exist to defend her demonization of LGBT people as disease ridden hedonists.  She follows Pennsylvania's Human Relations Commission Chair, Stephen Glassman, like a mutant "fag hag" tramping all over the Commonwealth to challenge him at every turn. 

The best response?  Truth.  During a planning meeting last night focusing on how to connect this ordinance (the public hearing is set for January 15, 2009) with the upcoming national DOMA/Join the Impact rally, I kept flashing back to the film "Milk" and Milk's pleas for gay people to come out and be real and present to everyone in their lives.  Allegheny County is not some backwater movie set filled with unfeeling human beings.  Quite the opposite.  I have found that most people are caring and encouraging and, even when they aren't 100% comfortable with homosexuality, still agree that homosexual people deserve to keep their jobs and live in decent apartments and get a table at Applebees.  These aren't special privileges and when folks know real life people suffering the indignity and dehumanizing impact of these discriminations, they care. 

So the best response is a response laced with truth and honesty.  Let your friends and family and neighbors and coworkers know what is going on and ask them to contact their County Councilmembers with your story and theirs as someone who loves and respects you.  Start talking about those discriminations we've all endured -- I have a 'good story" that was surprise, surprise resolved by a former employer in a positive way, but the resulting cultural shift was minimal.  Still, I was lucky because even though I had to implicate my immediate supervisors for failing to take action, I had a lot of support from my (lawyer) partner and friends.  And there was fallout and I carried some worry with me for the next three years about my job security given that I was now a troublemaker and could be let go at any point because there was no legal protection for me.  It weighed me down and I was really angry for a long time for being the object of a stupid degrading joke. 

So, all you who read this, if you have family and friends in Alllegheny County, Pennsylvania (Go Steelers!), contact them and ask them to make this call today.  Remind Councilman Finnerty, Drozd and Ellenbogen that LGBT people live in their districts, along with people who love them, and ask them to vote for the legislation.  Share your stories.  I have information up here on how to make those contacts and which neighborhoods are part of these council districts.  It doesn't hurt to ask those who live in other districts to call, too, and shore up support by reminding our elected officials that this legislation is about equality of opportunity to employment, housing and public accomodations and fairness for their LGBT voters. 

Diane Gramley is not from Allegheny County.  She doesn't vote here.  She represents some shadow members who can't be bothered to show up to testify themselves.  We need to turn out a good sized contingent of LGBT folks and allies at the public hearing on January 15, 2009 to demonstrate that there are thousands of us living in the County and we won't be silenced by her fear mongering ways. 

This is your "recruitment" moment, folks.  Sure, County Chambers are a long way away especially during rush hour and with all of the parking and what about the kids?  But does the tally for parking, gas and a babysitter (or a favor from a family member to watch them) = the peace of mind of not worrying about someone at work finding out you are a lesbian or being able to get a table at Eat 'n Park regardless of your gender identity?  Bring the kids!  Show the County Council that your family is part of their voting base.  Show them in an up close and personal way the real impact of discrimination on your life. 

Equally important, my friends, is that you show them the positive impact YOU have in their district.  The you work, pay taxes, shop, dine, coach soccer, shovel snow for elderly neighbors, attend worship services, and ... vote. 

View Article  Allegheny Council Members Withdraw Sponsorship of Anti-Discrimination Legislation

I received word that three members of Allegheny County Council have withdrawn their support of the legislation that would extend anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation.

You can bet the rightwing and the AFA of PA are getting people to make calls and had something to do with this change in support of the legislation.

If you, your parents, siblings, friends or family live in these neighborhoods, please take a moment to send an email or pick up the phone and urge these three individuals to vote in favor of this legislation.  Remind them that is it not fair or just for someone to lose their job or be denied a place to live because they are gay.  It really is that simple and it shouldn't be controversial. Be polite and ask them to vote for the legislation. 

If you need any motivation to make the call, check out what the AFA of PA is saying about all of this ...they are spreading lies and misinformation about the impact of this legislation.  Go read the distortions for yourself.

More on this later after I attend the Steel City meeting this afternoon. 

Matt Drozd, District 1, Contact E-Mail(412) 350-6525

District 1 includes:
District Municipality
1 Aleppo
1 Avalon
1 Bellevue
1 Ben Avon
1 Ben Avon Heights
1 Coraopolis
1 Crescent
1 Edgeworth
1 Emsworth
1 Kilbuck
1 Leet
1 Leetsdale
1 Moon
1 Ross
1 Sewickley
1 West View


Michael Finnerty, District 4, Contact E-Mail(412) 350-6540

District 4 includes:  
4 Bridgeville
4 Carnegie
4 Collier
4 Crafton
4 Findlay
4 Glenfield
4 Haysville
4 Heidelberg
4 Kennedy
4 McKees Rocks
4 Neville
4 North Fayette
4 Oakdale
4 Osborne
4 Pennsbury Village
4 Robinson
4 Rosslyn Farms
4 Scott
4 Stowe
4 Thornburg


James Ellenbogen, District 12, Contact E-Mail(412) 350-6580

District 12 includes:
12 Dormont
12 Green Tree
12 Ingram
12 Pittsburgh - 19th Ward (Beechview, Mt. Washington, parts of Brookline, Duquesne Heights
12 Pittsburgh - 20th Ward (Banksville, Ridgemont, Elliot)
12 Pittsburgh - 28th Ward (Crafton Heights, Westwood, East Carnegie, Windgay and Fairywood)
12 Pittsburgh - 29th Ward (Carrick)
12 Pittsburgh - 30th Ward (Knoxville)
12 Pittsburgh - 32nd Ward

View Article  MacKenzie Carpenter has a blog

You can read it here:  http://mackenziecarpenter.blogspot.com/

MacKenzie, as you know, is a professional journalist, but does add another woman's voice to the Burghosphere. 

View Article  From Burgh 2.0 to Stonewall 2.0

Last week, I wrote about the potential emergence of the Burghosphere 2.0 with the recent demise of several anonymous bloggers and others.  New voices are breaking through and it is a very exciting time to be a blogger, perhaps, if you have the luxury/willingness to blog in your real identity.  I'm not sure what exactly is going on, but there's a shift as some bloggers turn off the comments function and others pick up the keyboard for the first time.  It is all good.

There's a parallel post over at Wockner about Stonewall 2.0, focusing on the 11 days between November 5 and November 15 which culminated in the anti-prop 8 protests (h/t Pam's House Blend). 

Stonewall 2.0 may or may not be inextricably wed to Join The Impact, the viral entity that coordinated the massive, 300-city, 50-state demos on Nov. 15, but what happened from Nov. 5 to Nov. 15 in California and across the country indisputably fired up a new generation of activists and lit a fire under complacent, comfortable older generations. It was a 2.0 moment -- different from the gay marches on Washington, the AB 101 protests, the White Night Riots and other post-Stonewall historical moments precisely because it took place from coast to coast and border to border, and because the method by which it was organized (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, text-messaging) can be reactivated in minutes whenever the moment strikes.

We all had a collective feeling we'd had enough of this crap and it was time to reclaim something that had been taken from us. And now we know we have the ability, the tools, and the activist masses to fight back on cue. Any future events organized by Join The Impact may or may not look or feel like Nov. 15, but the U.S. GLBT population turned a corner from Nov. 5 to 15. It may take a couple of years before it's fully clear what all happened during those 11 days, but it did happen, and things are different now. Lots of things. Not the least of which is the truly diminished authority of Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign and other snappily dressed fortysomething and fiftysomething gay leaders who utterly failed to lead in the campaign against Proposition 8.

Steel City Stonewall is leading the planning efforts for the January 10 "Join the Impact" event.  It would be interesting to get their take on this.  That last sentence is pretty telling.  When I think of true leaders in the local LGBTQ community, I'm thinking of folks like Lance Friedman and Eli Kuti neither of whom would be confused with a snappily dressed fortysomthing and fiftysomething.  However, when I think of those who seem to have the power and the political sway, well it looks a little different.

Remember, the Mayor's office has NOT yet answered the question about releasing campaign contributions for individuals nominated to the Advisory Committee.  No answer.  There is no dialogue.

Have you had enough of this crap, yet?

View Article  Happy Holidays from Lesbian Central!

View Article  Steel City Stonewall announces planning meeting
Event Info
Time and Place
Sunday, December 28, 2008
5:00pm - 7:00pm
Panera Bread
3401 Blvd of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA
Contact Info

The Planning Meeting will be held on Sunday, December 28th from 5 to 7 in the glassed in private room at Panera Bread at 3401 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

It is within walking distance for anyone in Oakland and there is a large free parking lot for anyone who is driving.

Some of the things to be discussed at the meeting:

Location of Event & Permit for Event

Speakers for Event.

Adding the current battle for the proposed Allegheny County Non-Discrimination Ordinance to the fabric of the Event.

Adding components to create awareness & participation in the important School Board, City Council, Mayoral, County Council, & Judicial Races happening in 2009


Creation of Printed Material & Signage

Publicity/Media involvement

Stage & Sound



The only thing missing from the agenda is weaving the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Council into the larger event ... after all the protest takes place five full days before the deadline to submit nominations.  What a great opportunity to capture some last minute interest.   (And somewhat ironic since the Mayor is on the record as opposing gay marriage and civil unions). 

Still, the location is easy to find, accessible, plenty of parking, coffee at hand, and everything else folks have mentioned.  It is close the holidays, but here's your opportuniy to "Join the Impact" of the LGBTQ Community in Pittsburgh.  Marriage doesn't have to be your issue to motivate you to participate. 

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