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View Article  Reimagine Charlie Brown Christmas ...
View Article  Harrisburg City Council Passes Domestic Registry; Now What?

Harrisburgians may soon be on their way to another notch in the belt of pointless LGBT legislative efforts. 

Harrisburg City Council Unanimously Passes Life Partnership Registry

HARRISBURG- Last night the Harrisburg City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance to create a Life Partnership Registry, allowing unmarried, committed couples to affirm and recognize their relationships with the city. By a vote of 7 to 0, the Harrisburg City Council has taken an important step to streamline the process for domestic partners to obtain healthcare and other benefits afforded to married couples

"This vote shows that people all across Pennsylvania are committed to treating same-sex couples with the same respect and dignity as other married couples," said Jake Kaskey, policy and outreach coordinator with Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization.  ?This type of legislation has strong support across Pennsylvania, and will concretely help countless unmarried couples obtain benefits afforded to married couples.? 

Kaskey noted that polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research in November 2007 found that 91% of people polled supported hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.

Equality Advocates Pennsylvania worked with Councilman Miller and Harrisburg Attorney Benjamin C. Dunlap, Jr. to draft the ordinance.

Councilman Dan Miller, who introduced this legislation, remarked, "I am proud that the Harrisburg City Council unanimously passed the Life Partner Registry Bill last night.  It is a positive step toward equality for all residents.  I hope this new law expanding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the state capital will inspire state legislators to take similar action.?

Lesbian and gay, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, can register with the city. Harrisburg would become the third municipality in Pennsylvania to approve this type of registry, joining Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.


The ordinance now awaits the approval of Mayor Stephen Reed.

You might recall that Pittsburgh passed similar legislation, signed amidst much fanfare when Luke Ravenstahl came to PrideFest.  Fast forward six months.  Exactly six couples have registered.  There has been no promotion of this resource, either to City employees (60 registered domestic partners in Personnel) or the general public.  There has been no publicized effort to increase the number of employers offering domestic partner benefits.

With all due respect to Jake Kaskey, this legislation hasn't done one single "concrete" thing for Pittsburgh except reinforce the misperception that Luke Ravenstahl supports gay rights.  I have been informed that this is what actually propelled County Councilwoman Amanda Greene to go underground with the gay advocates and come up with the anti-discrimination legislation on the County level.  Certainly, that's a win for County residents.  But what about us here in Pittsburgh who are going to be saddled once again with a Mayor who publicly opposes civil unions, but is willing to allow people to think otherwise so he can court the "pink" voters and donors?  Too bad for us?  Screw us? 

I am poking around for information on how this registry is working in Philadelphia.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from how this rolled out in the Liberty City and I would be ecstatic if this could be salvaged to make a meaningful difference, especially for low and moderate income families who can really utilize the benefits.  And maybe the folks in H-burg have an actual implementation plan to make this a useful resource.

But I'm not exactly "consoled" by the fact that the County Council stepped on my back to achieve equality for gay people.  No one asked me to make that tradeoff and I'd like a recount if they did.  Especially since Amanda Greene is my County Councilwoman and I haven't seen her in Manchester at all (but she's in good company in that regard).  You can bet I'll be contacting her for more discussion on that tradeoff.

View Article  Burghosphere 2.0

What's going on?  The Burgh Report closed up shop this week, joining the ranks of many (many anonymous) bloggers who are gone.  Dayvoe shut off comments on his blog posts at 2 Political JunkiesJohn McIntire never allowed them in the first place, preferring to post things people email him.  Nothing wrong with that, but change is unsettling (and, apparently, fodder for PG writers). 

Personally, I believe change is inevitable.  Blogging is mostly a leisure time activity and when life happens, it falls to the wayside along with many other non-essential parts of our lives.  Or blogging consumers one's life and exhaustion and/or disillusionment inevitably set it.  Or life circumstances change and access to the topical information is inevitably altered such as a loss or change in employment.  (The loss of so many PG staffers coincides weirdly with the demise of the Burgh Report). 

Discourse is changing.  There's a shift.  Maybe we are entering The Burgh 2.0 or the second/third wave (depending on how you count 'em). Perhaps we could reframe the change in discourse to new opportunities for fresh, diverse voices to enter the dialogue on a more level playing field. In the queerosphere, we have a new player in the form of What Comes after 8, Pgh?  We also have a new email group for queer bloggers in Pennsylvania and a soon to be scheduled pow-wow on new social media and gay advocacy to be held here in Pittsburgh.  There's buzz and energy and potential.  It is all good. 

We need to ferret out the openly queer people who are blogging about food, books, poetry, sports, exercise, their family life, Amazonian reptiles and whatever else motivates us to start typing.  This is an opportunity for us to propel our entire community to the forefront of the Burghosphere and let people know who we are.

I'm not happy that things are changing. I was sad to read Joe Grata's final column in the Post-Gazette as much as the final post on the Burgh Report.  But a new voice will have a chance to speak up, speak out and be heard.  That's a change I can embrace.

View Article  Dear Reader Who Emailed Me About Moving to Pittsburgh

I can't find your email!  I am very sorry for not responding, but I have been pouring through my inbox searching for it.  So I thought I'd try to reach you in hopes that you might still be reading.  Please email me sue @ sitnscoop.com. 

With deep apologies,


View Article  Comment from a communications expert

Some advice from a highly respected professional on the need for a timely response from the LGBTQ community to breaking news.  ...   more »

View Article  Sunday morning musings

Now this is a nice way to wake up.  Yesterday, we had a really strange day including the purchase of our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree which was marked down to $10.00.  Typically, we get a nice big one, but this year feels different so we scaled back.  Even so, the tree is taller (just slightly) than Ledcat.  It fits nicely in the living room and was much easier to wrangle through the front door.  So I think we have a new tradition.  $10.00 is a good deal.  Pointsettas cost more than that.

I stayed up late last night wading through the comments section and responding to email messages.  Then I slept without coughing and woke up to coffee and a non-blizzard.  Ha. 

Today, I'm just making some random musings. 

The Guardian reports a lack of lesbian (and other queer) foster parents, especially tragic given the increasing number of LGBTQ teens in the system because of their sexual orientation/gender identity.  My colleagues at the GLCC tell me that there are multiple homeless gay youth who show up for the youth programs each week.  My colleagues at my agency affirm that there are homeless gay youth living on the streets because they aren't comfortable in the existing shelter structures.  So if you've considered it, there are young people who need you right here in Pittsburgh.

The New York Times affirms that separate but equal, in terms of civil unions versus marriage, is not equal.   Civil unions should convey all civil benefits, but they don't.  New Jersey has evidence to demonstrate this and the Governor plans to do something about it by pushing the legislator to take action.  Incrementalism vs fairness will be locked in a death grip for sometime. 

Plans are underway for a Pittsburgh based protest as part of the National DOMA protest under the "Join the Impact" umbrella.  This will be on January 10, 2009.  I haven't found any concrete details yet, but put this date on your calendar.  Even if marriage isn't your top issue, sending a signal about the activist energy in the LGBTQ community is powerful and gives our legislative allies leverage on our other more immediate issuers here in Pennsylvania.  And, frankly, you will get a real lift from being part of something bigger than yourself.  It might motivate you to start a blog or write a letter or join Steel City Stonewall.  I hope we see more local advocacy leaders at this protest.  I'll keep you informed.

Now for Rick Warren.  I doubt I have to bring you up to speed on that raging debate.  PageOneQ has just about every link on the blogosphere, including what Barney Frank has to say and how the HRC is handling the matter. I'm personally interested in what the members of our local LGBTQ community of faith think about it.  Do you have some thoughts to share with me, either via comment or via email? 

Personally, I think it was a misstep on the part of Obama, but he's known for reaching waaaay across the divide to build unity.  The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground between evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and homosexuals who want equal rights.  Or is there?  I have friends who identify as evangelicals.  I know they feel there is some choice in the matter and that marriage is a no-no,  but our interpersonal bond has opened up a lot of middle ground especially as they've gotten to know Ledcat (or about Ledcat through our conversations).  The trick is flipping the switch between their friend Sue, the lesbian and all lesbians and all LGBTQ individuals.  That's a challenge our community struggles to address -- to out ourselves to the ordinary person in our life who is a fervent Christian instead of just challenging the wingnut on the other side of the protest sign or the hate letter. 

Still, this decision is also very symbolic and there is great fear in the community that Obama will backpedal on any sort of equal rights issues to avoid damaging coalitions he needs to advance his other priorities.  The fear is legitimate because it is going to take a long time to generate consensus on gay marriage.  Even as the polls show that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is acceptable to most Americans, the conventional wisdom is that the military has to come to Congress for this be a real culture change.  So what's a progressive minded President to do aside from beginning those dialogues?  Perhaps he can introduce more Americans to openly gay folks by appointing them to serve in positions for which they are qualified and for which they have been excluded because they aren't in the closet!

Oopss.  Too late.  All the Cabinet positions for which openly gay individuals were being considered have been filled.  By individuals who identify as heterosexual (you never know).  From The Advocate.com:

Steve Elmendorf, a former deputy campaign manager for John Kerry and senior adviser to Dick Gephardt, called it ?very disappointing? that a number of high-quality LGBT candidates had been passed over. ?It?s a very diverse and inclusive cabinet for every community except for the gay and lesbian community,? he said.

Not that anyone?s counting, but the 22 cabinet-level positions as announced/projected include three Latinos, two Asian Americans, four African-Americans, five women, and, yes, two Republicans.

Elmendorf observed that the top-tier White House staff doesn?t appear to have any LGBT people in it either. ?That just makes the Rick Warren thing an extra kick in the stomach,? he said.

So, what does this mean for all the average queers in Pittsburgh?

First, I really would like to see leaders in our faith community take a more active role in advocacy.  I'd like to see a contingent of the Spirituality Group marching alongside the always present PFLAG folks.  I'd like a thoughtful written response to the Rick Warren debacle.  I'd like them to speak out on ensuring that queer families and individuals struggling in a recessed economny are not forgotten by the safety net providers, including faith based groups.  I'd love to hear from them and know what's happening on that level.

Second, we need to channel all these emerging energies into some cohesive force which means I'm going to drag out my oft-used battle cry for the LGBTQ advocacy leaders to get themselves into order.  Surely SOMEONE in the community can have a chat with the Mayor's people. Someone knows a staffer or two.  Someone can intervene to turn the advisory council discussion in a more productive and fair direction.  I hate that it takes behind the scenes discussion, but clearly the folks involved are clammed up tight.  My prediction based on the evidence at hand?  This will be another Domestic Registry situation ... no outcome, just fanfare. 

Well, there's a Charlie Brown tree to decorate and, apparently, housework!

View Article  Another Good Letter to the Editor

 Another heartening letter to the editor, this time from Carole E. Rose of Mt. Lebanon on the topic of gay rights.  Ms. Rose is responding to a letter which regurgitated the "marriage = procreation" argument which this writer soundly rebuts:

Does she have her head in the sand? Does she think that children are born only of married couples? Does she think that every child who is born has a loving place to live? Has she ever heard of adoption? Has she ever realized that gay and lesbian couples can in most states both foster and adopt children and raise them in a loving environment? So why not raise them in a loving environment of married parents whether they are same-sex parents or heterosexual? I've seen it and it works.

The state sanctioned marriage of two opposite gender adults does not in any way carry a guarantee of a loving, stable home for children.  Otherwise, there would be a long line of adult-children filing for their state backed "my parents sucked" refund.

Ms. Rose also gets a good swipe in for full equality.

Earlier in her letter she enumerates the civil rights that same-sex couples have been granted by some (but not all) states. Well big whoop! When you are a little bit "not equal" you are not equal.

Well said, Carole.  While I'm glad for my brothers and sisters in those states, I'm concerned that Pennsylvania has not yet expanded our hate crimes laws to include acts perpetrated on the base of sexual orientation or gender identity (does anyone think beating someone up because they 'seem' gay is not a hate crime?).  I'm hopeful State Representatives Dan Frankel and Chelsa Wagner will successfully steer legislation that essentially prevents us from being fired, denied housing or ejected from a restaurant because we are gay. 

This topic was brought startling to my consciousness the other day when a coworker was discussing a 'staff only' bathroom with me, arguing that in an organization where we promote community integration, a staff only bathroom was akin to a "Whiles Only" or "Heterosexuals Only" bathroom.  I could feel my eyes widening as it has been a long time since someone (gently) threw that argument back in my face.  I wasn't defending the bathroom, just being brought up to speed on the issue.  However, he made an impression because I'm writing about it two days later on a seemingly unrelated issue.  There are people in my community who experience discrimination in bathrooms -- my trans-sisters and trans-brothers, my lesbian and queer women sisters whose appearance is masculine, and gay men who are stalked by the police for seeking connections in bathrooms.  Yes, the bathroom has been a place of much discrimination in our community (think of all the kids beaten up in the school bathroom for the crime of not fitting in). 

Legislation won't suddenly put an end to all of this, but it will provide an opportunity to educate owners on how to accommodate their LGBTQ visitors and manage confrontations that might infringe upon those rights.  It will send a signal that we have recourse.  We can complain to the manager and expect him to do something about it.  We can contact the police, if we've experienced an act of violence (not an expression of someones opinion, mind you), and expect them to do something about it. 

A "little bit" equal didn't cut it with Mr. Kampus in 8th grade algebra and it doesn't cut it with Carole Rose, either.

Thanks for writing.

View Article  City Paper weighs in on the Mayor's Advisory Council

Melissa Meinzer, one of two media outlets to cover the planning meeting for the Mayor's new advisory council, has the scoop here.  I found her take to be interesting, especially the follow up interviews with the Mayor's liaison Gary Van Horn and the Mayor's spokeswoman. 

The idea for the council, Van Horn said in a later interview, germinated in January. No action was taken on it, he says, because "nobody was stepping up to the plate and holding the feet to the fire." So Van Horn, who, as president of the Delta Foundation, a local LGBT business group, has cultivated a relatively close relationship with Ravenstahl, met with him about six weeks ago. "The mayor needed to fulfill his promise" of reaching out, Van Horn said. "We've seen in the last two years, he needs educated." For instance, he says, the mayor, without someone directly explaining it to him, might not have understood that without domestic partnerships, loving partners of 20 years might be denied hospital visits to one another.

The council will be comprised of 8 to 10 actively involved members of the LGBT community. Preference will be given to city residents, Baginski said at the meeting, and city employees are eligible.

"The committee will create their own bylaws," Van Horn said.

Other than that, the selection process is not clear.

Baginski said at the meeting that the applications, due Jan. 15, would be culled by herself, Van Horn and others in the mayor's office. But Van Horn said in a later interview "that was news to me": He said he hadn't realized he'd be on the selection committee until Baginski mentioned it.

How council members will be chosen "will be the mayor's discretion," Doven says. "I don't have any word on that."

As to how Van Horn got to be the de facto liaison for the LGBT community, Doven says "that's sometimes how things get started, perhaps he had a relationship with the mayor. I know that [Van Horn] has expressed concern to the mayor and he's had dialogue with the mayor."

Van Horn won't say if he plans to apply for a council spot himself: "That's to be determined. I want to see how this all pans out."

At the meeting, Van Horn stated that he and others, including PA Human Relations Commission Chair Stephen Glassman, had met with the Mayor "earlier this year" to discuss this plan. Glassman has confirmed for me that he and local activists, Tara Reynolds, attended that meeting, but has not yet responded to my requests to confirm the other attendees. 

After 40+ comments showed up on my blog post, the Mayor's office asked for my contact information.  I have not yet heard from them and have no idea if they plan to answer my questions or not.

The inconsistencies around this whole plan are a bit troubling.  Why is the Mayor so reluctant to have his people talk with the gay media?  His Deputy Chief of Staff promised me, in front of 27 people, to answer my question about campaign contributions being revealed.  She lied to me.  In a public meeting.  There has been no answer or attempt to answer that question.  I'm a City resident and I should get a real answer, not have to read about it in the City Paper.

Let's talk for a moment about the campaign contributions.  Yes, I want to know about contributions of substantial amounts of money, but I'm also interested in contributions that are smaller but still significant for the donor.  If I give any elected official $50, it represents a big investment on the part of this social-work-salaried lesbian.  It makes a statement about my alliances and my values and my personal support.  The number of nominees for this committee that make donations of $500 and up are probably low.  So, yes, Mayor Ravenstahl, it does matter if there are numerous individuals who supported you with modest amounts.  And you should share that information unless you have something to hide. Period. 

As I've said in previous posts, I think Gary does some good stuff for the community and I think there's nothing wrong with self-promotion to make himself the Mayor's go-to-guy on LGBT issues ... after all, no one else was trying to be that person.  But I think it is a violation of ethics for Gary to be part of the planning and nomination teams if he is considering submitting his name for the board.  I think he should pick one or the other.  If the Mayor wants Gary on his board, fine.  Just ask him to pull out of the nomination process to keep things transparent and fair.  That's not difficult.  Make the process fair and transparent.  And that's a decision both Gary and the Mayor can make as part of their commitment to build genuine trust and communication with the community.  This is the point where self-interest should take a back seat to what's best for the community.

As for the "putting the feet to the fire" quote, there are several heads in this community that should roll over that one.  This was initiated by other activists who have not taken responsibility for their actions.  Gary is not the only player, he is the only one willing to be held somewhat accountable.  That's ridiculous.  He gets to deal with all the personal crap in the comments section while others sit back and say nothing.  Shame on them.  If there's even a remote possibility their names are submitted and I find out about it, all details will be forthcoming. 

One other advantage to the new board is that you will get to read some other opinions in future City Paper articles, aside from Gary and myself!

View Article  Letter to the Editor

In today's PG , Chris Strayer of Homewood (misspelled as Hoomewood, I think) rebuts the "marriage is for procreation" argument.  Or, as Chris puts it, marriage for breeding.  That was worth a chuckle.

I'm confused about this "engendering" business. I thought that was something ultrasound readers and OB/GYNs did. They look at the kid and assign her/him to one of two categories. Never mind that kids come in far more than two categories, and frequently do not agree with the engenderer's opinion. Is Ms. Jarrell arguing that only ultrasound readers and OB/GYNs should be permitted to marry? Of course not. But her argument that marriage is for breeding falls flat.

Postmenopausal women may marry; I presume Ms. Jarrell would "grandmother" women who married before menopause but cannot now bear children. Men need not obtain a sperm count before obtaining a marriage license. Couples do not need to have a kid first and take her/him to the county offices to certify their fertility. Fertility clinics don't require marriage, either.

And as for the "gift" to civilization, that smacks of the pay-to-play we so roundly despise in our politics. Ms. Jarrell may as well demand that only those able to help a politician obtain re-election be granted the constitutional right to petition for a redress of grievances.

Let gay folks marry. It's simple 14th Amendment equal protection, people.

Pay to play seems to be a theme this week.  :-) 

Personally, I think procreation is less powerful than the "way God intended" argument. It is hard to challenge people who are absolute in what they know God intends.  Nonetheless, Chris, thank you for writing.  The more pro-gay content in the newspaper, the more impact we have, especially when the content is driven by readers. 

View Article  Random Things You Might Find Interesting

In no particular order.

The Post-Gazette examines the impact of the "new needy" on already stretched safety net resources. 

Mr. Carpenter became one of the "new needy," a group of newly unemployed and under-employed workers being forced to seek help from charities for the first time.

Seventy-three percent of Pittsburgh-area nonprofits have seen increases in help requests from such first-timers in the last six months alone, said a study released last week. At the same time, 100 percent of the same agencies expect budget shortfalls over the next six months.

The result of that math is many of those desperate enough to ask for help are being turned away.

I have been worried about this for months.  Many of the "new needy" don't even know where to turn for help, but there certainly aren't many marketing dollars available.  One very important resource in the safety net is the Human Services Development Fund which catches people who might otherwise fall through the net, for example adults ages 18-59 who often don't qualify for programs and services. This is dedicated funding in the state budget, under the Department of Public Welfare.  We'll have to watch the Governor's budget carefully as this is something that is vitally important to many, many vulnerable families and individuals. 

Next, check out Autumn's reflection on Pat Boone and homosexuals.

Lifetime is looking for lesbian moms for a new series.

Interested in women running for office?  Join the Run, Baby, Run email list a la Gloria.

Follow PghLesbian24 on Twitter

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