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View Article  Chalk up another to religious hypocrisy in Jefferson County

A United Methodist pastor has continued to minister at two Jefferson County churches even though he has been awaiting trial since August 2007 on charges that he molested two women at a mental health center.

The Rev. Michael Clair Garvey, 59, of Worthville, also faces a lawsuit filed by one of those women. He serves the Coolspring United Methodist Church in Coolspring and Ramseytown United Methodist Church, Knoxdale.

No church members are involved in the cases pending against him. He was arrested for molesting two clients and a counselor at Brookville Behavioral Health, where, according to court records, he also was a counselor until July 2007.

Ah.  So good to see the Methodist Church looking out for the vulnerable.  Ann Rodgers has the story in today's Post-Gazette

The Rev. Robert Higginbotham, assistant to Bishop Thomas Bickerton, of the United Methodist Conference of Western Pennsylvania, knew of the charges. But he said no one had complained to church officials about the Rev. Garvey and that the conference was waiting for the matter to be resolved in court.

"There is a presumption of innocence until guilt is proved," he said.

"The fact that this has gone on for a year and a half gives some indication to the seriousness of the allegations. I would think that if there was some hard evidence, this would not drag on."

So Reverend Higginbotham is a lawyer with an extensive background in judicial proceedings?  I don't think so.

Here comes the part where they disparage the alleged victims character.

"They have set court dates again and again and the folks who made the allegations never show up," the Rev. Schwab said. "We are just waiting to see if there is any truth to the allegation."

But according to the judge's summary, two accusers testified at a hearing in December 2007 and the third in January.

Apparently, the church leaders aren't even paying attention to the facts in the case.  Well done.  Good to know that the faithful little Methodist women who belong to his two churches are being looked out for with such rigor and scrutiny by their church leaders.

Garvey's lawyer plays "why did they wait so long? card.

The Rev. Garvey's attorney, Blair Hindman, said his client is innocent of the charges.

"We're dealing with two women ... who, a year and a half after these actions allegedly occur, come forward to make accusations," he said. If it was true, "you would think someone would have complained about it earlier."

Here's someone who actually thinks criminal proceedings based on sexually victimizing people under his power and influence warrants being proactive to protect others in similar vulnerability.

The appropriate church reaction would have been to immediately suspend him, and for the bishop to go to each church and ... at a bare minimum say that anyone who has any information that could prove or disprove the allegations has a moral duty to speak up," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which responds to victims from all denominations.

The fact that no complaints have come from the Rev. Garvey's churches proves nothing because victims are reluctant to accuse pastors, he said.

What?  People are reluctant to accuse pastors?  Where on earth does that revelation come from?  Is there any precedent for pastors victimizing their flock?  Hmmm. 

The Methodist Church in Jefferson County sucks.  Does this disgust you?  Sick of the hypocrisy of churches blasting the LGBTQ community for being the anti-Christ while they provide cover for sexual predators? 

Bishop Bickerton  [email protected] 

Reverend Higginbotham [email protected] 

Reverend Schwab [email protected] 

Reverend Garvey [email protected]

This is just a pathetic backwater good old boys club attempt to preserve the power of the pulpit no matter the risk to the faithful.  These so-called leaders should writhe in shame at their failure to balance the needs of their church members with the rights of Reverend Garvey.  What kind of message does this send to women in the Methodist Church? 

The message that your church won't believe you if you bring clerical abuse to light.  Period.  They won't believe you and they will even say so in the leading newspaper in the region.  They are not protecting you and your families from potential predators garbed in clerical robes. 

They didn't learn a damn think from the Catholic abuse scandal. 


View Article  Finally, some LGBTQ content from the Trib

The Tribune-Review interviewed Rachel Maddow.  I've probably read 15 interviews with her as there has been one in almost every publication we receive.  But I've never seen her show. 

The Trib has remained shockingly mum on LGBTQ issues of late.  Nothing on HB 300, the Allegheny County HRC ordinance, rallies or anything.  Very curious. 


View Article  Spring Fling Women's Dance set for April 18


Ladies, ready to dance?


WHO?          WOMEN'S DANCE with D.J. Adele

                               PLUS Vendors, Raffles, Door Prizes!


WHERE?   Absolute Ballroom

 6617 Hamilton Ave.                              Pittsburgh, PA. 15206

           (Across the street from Animal Rescue League)


WHEN?        Saturday, APRIL 18th, 2009, 7 PM


Ticket sales start March 1st

@   A Pleasant Present- $10 CASH

@   http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/56038

                   or $12 CASH at the door (if available!)

Only 200 tickets will be sold, so get your tickets early!

Parking on street or Animal Rescue League lot


Any questions send an email to [email protected]   

benefits the GLCC

View Article  "Patron Party" to support the important work of Persad Center

I realize the absurdity of writing about a fundraiser immediately after posting about poverty, but there's a very important connection ... the services of Persad Center, the region's LGBT mental health service provider.  "Celebrate Life, Celebrate Art" is a clear way you can help.

Ledcat and I will be live-blogging this year's "Celebrate Life, Celebrate Art" auction in May.  Something neat for you to explore is the online "thumbnails" of this year's art donations.  Here's the link.   We'll be covering the Patron Party, too. 

I'm working with Persad to provide training for my team so we can make sure our services and program meet the needs of LGBTQ individuals and families we serve.  I've been with my agency for a little over 3 months and have identified that we need to be very proactive to assure our consumers that we respect their LGBTQ identities.  I'm out at work, to my team and to consumers as appropriate. My team is pretty good and certainly wants to be competent on LGBTQ issues, but there's only so much I can personally do to ensure that they have the appropriate information.  There's also only so much I can do to assure our consumers that they can take the leap from coming out to me, an openly queer woman, to coming out to their staff person.  That's a huge step and there has to be trust, as well as the right information.

Thankfully, I can turn to Persad to provide that information. 

View Article  Study Examines Gay Affluence Myth

The Washington Blade has an interesting article on the myth of gay affluence.  A recently published survey by the Williams Institute of UCLA reveals that the percentage of lesbian and gay families living in poverty is significantly higher than same sex families.

A new report from a think-tank on sexual orientation reveals how poverty is affecting gay people in the United States.

The report, released Friday by the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles, found that lesbian couples are more likely to be living in poverty than other couples.

The analysis found that 7 percent of lesbian couples are living below the poverty line, compared to 4 percent of gay male couples and 5 percent of opposite-sex couples.

The study also found that after ?adjusting for a range of family characteristics that help explain poverty,? same-sex couples are ?significantly? more likely to be poor than opposite-sex married couples.

Also, the study found that children of gay couples are living in poverty at a rate that is twice as much as the children of straight married couples.

The Blade article goes on the make the logical conclusion that as women, on average, earn less than men so two women living together are likely to earn less than a man and a woman pooling their earnings as well as two men. 

This study uses data collected before the current economic recession so it might be particularly useful to put this in perspective on how plans to revitalize the economy impact LGBTQ families. 

I find this examination of socioeconomic status interesting because of my work in the human services field.  The ability of low and moderate income LGBTQ families (and individuals) to access services and resources becomes even more acute when you factor in the double negative of being poor and queer in a society that devalues both groups of individuals. 

What does this mean here in Pittsburgh?  Well it certainly suggest that organizations such as the GLCC are human service providers and should be part of the equation when examining service delivery.  It also suggests we should be mindful of the ability of low and moderate income queer families to access the social opportunities so critical to developing a strong support system -- events that cost $15 per person might be out of reach for a family living on $12.00/hr wages. 

Groups that strive to create these social support opportunities that are free or income sensitive -- like the PrideFest Committee and the Dyke March -- do tackle this issue. Certainly organizations like PATF, Persad Center and the Shepherd Wellness Community play a significant role in serving individuals struggling with the day to day reality of surviving on limited means. 

This makes your support of these groups even more vital.  It also means we should continue agitating for systemic change on the local level.  I would argue it makes advocacy on the County level even more critical to have any real impact on the delivery of local human services and strengthening the safety net to include all kinds of families. 

I'm going to please Adam by also pointing out that changing federal laws on marriage would go a long way toward addressing a myriad of systemic barriers facing queer families.  It is tax time and we once again face the lowering of the boom in terms of federal taxes on our domestic partner health insurance. It is still a bargain, but ridiculously unfair.  Thus, while I absolutely believe we should push County Chief Executive Dan Onorato to offer domestic partner benefits we should continue to urge US Congressman Mike Doyle to make the federal government treat our families fairly.  It is a continuum. 

The myth of affluence is just that.

h/t Pam's House Blend

View Article  Pennsylvania HRC on HB 300

Human Relations Commission Chair Stephen Glassman has a well-written, thoughtful argument in support of the passage of HB 300. 

It is unacceptable that such basic civil rights are not ensured for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals under current Pennsylvania law. The city of Pittsburgh has recognized this, passing a local ordinance several years ago granting these rights to people who work and live here. But such ordinances exist in only 13 municipalities across the commonwealth.

Twenty other states, including three of our neighbors, have laws on the books protecting these civil rights. At a time when population and job growth are crucial to our economic success, those states have a competitive advantage over Pennsylvania in terms of welcoming potential new residents and job-creating businesses.

The economic arguement is quite compelling for those who fail to see the import of the human rights argument.  I would put forth that it also supports the reason we need to invest equal resources toward the passage of the Allegheny County HRC Ordinance. 

Glassman argues that Pennsylvania is woefully late in passing this legislation.  Allegheny County residents should carefully consider that reality.  13 municipalities have beat us to the punch.  We are the second largest county in the Commonwealth and home to the second largest city in the Commonwealth. 

We should be a leader in protecting vulnerable citizens, not in 14th place.

View Article  Post-Gazette reports Rock the Dome Rally

The Post-Gazette has the story on today's Rock the Dome Rally in Harrisburg, organized in support of HB 300 which would extend protections based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity. 

People shouted, "End discrimination now." A little girl held a sign, "My 2 Mommies Deserve Equal Rights."' A man held a sign, "Would Jesus Discriminate?"

Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, chairman of the legislative black caucus, said, "We will fight for all God's people."

The rally turned out several hundred participants.  Unfortunately, this "breaking news" article did not include a reference to the Allegheny County ordinance.  Hopefully, that will be corrected tomorrow so folks have proper context. 

I hope we can attract some comments from rally participants to get first-hand accounts from the action. 

View Article  Emergency Food Distribution

Do you need food assistance?

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is here to help.

Evening Food Distribution at the Food Bank warehouse in Duquesne

Targeting Unemployed & Underemployed Families

Thursday Evening, March 26, 2009
5:30?7:30 pm


FOOD BANK DISTRIBUTIONS CALL 412-460-3663, ext. 727

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
One North Linden Street (Duquesne RIDC Park)
Duquesne PA 15110?412-460-FOOD

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View Article  Cherry Jones; HRC

Two quick items of interest today.

Rob Owens from the Post-Gazette has a nice interview with award winning actress and CMU grad Cherry Jones, who is currently portraying the President on 24.  I've never seen 24, but I do admire Jones' after seeing her in the "What Makes a Family" Lifetime special with Brooke Shields as a lesbian couple.  Jones is an openly gay actor and has been honored by GLAAD for her achievements.

The Owens' interview actually gave me some food for thought about 24, but its far too late to pick it up now I guess.

Also, h/t to Christopher Hixson for the "Buying for Equality 2009" guide from the HRC.  As you make your spending decisions, this guide which is based on the Equality Index can be a useful way to measure which national corporations support our community.  For convenience, I've linked the document below. 

With the economy as it is, the need to ensure that every dollar spent counts has never been more important. This year hundreds of businesses have earned the right to call you a customer with the commitment they have made to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Buying for Equality guide will help you easily support companies that support equality for LGBT Americans.

Ratings in Buying for Equality are based on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's annual report card, the Corporate Equality Index. A record 260 businesses scored 100 percent on this year's report, which is a significant increase from the 195 businesses that earned a perfect score last year. From enhanced domestic partner benefits to transgender inclusion in non-discrimination policies, we are seeing a revolution in the American workplace.

This proved useful to me in an interesting way.  My (former) insurance agent's staff treated in a very disrespectful manner, including referring to me as "the gay" and refusing to acknowledge that Ledcat is my domestic partner, insistently referring to her as a business partner in spite of my corrections.  This all happened after I made it clear that I did not want an auto policy at this time.  I contacted the agent for an apology which he refused to offer, proceeding to make his own bumbling offensive comments comparing homophobia to discrimination based on eye color or weight. So I contacted the corporate office and brought up the company's Equality Index rating.  To my surprise, she was familiar with it and assured me that the agent was out of compliance.  (It certainly helped my case that they made most of these comments via email.)

In 48 hours, I had a written apology from the agent and a promise from the company that his staff would be retrained on diversity. 

Beyond buying, you can use this tool to insist that local affiliates meet the standard or go back to the corporate office (or the HRC) if they don't.  It works.

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View Article  PG coverage Presbytery vote

I am pleased.  The Post-Gazette's coverage of yesterday's vote by the Pittsburgh Presbytery is a balanced report on the complexities of "gay issues" in communities of faith.  Rather than a reductionistic portrayal of people of faith as vigorously anti-gay, Ann Rodgers presents multiple perspectives from various heterosexual members of the Pittsburgh Presbytarian community.

At issue was an amendment to the church's constitution which would have eliminated the mandate that ministers be either chaste single adults or married.  In other words, it would have created room for gay clergy with partners.  The local vote is part of the larger effort to amend the constitution nationally.  Sadly, the local vote was against the amendment.

The good news is that the vote did bring out allies to testify on behalf of their gay sisters and brothers in the church (and beyond). 

"The current ordination standard cuts like a knife into the heart of what many presbytery members believe about their friends and family members who are gay," said Mike Fazzini, an elder at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church. "It sends my son the message that he is not worthy ... because the love of his life happens to be of the same sex."


The Rev. Jean Henderson, a retired pastor and past moderator of the presbytery, said she regretted remaining silent for 50 years about her support for gay ordination, especially after the death of the Rev. Brent Dugan, a beloved pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, who committed suicide after his picture was shown in KDKA-TV news promos promising to reveal illicit sexual behavior.

"After the death of Brent Dugan in 2006 I came out of the closet as a straight ally for those who are striving simply to use the gifts that God has given them. I encourage you to let God's love in Christ overcome your fear and to vote for this amendment," she said.


After the vote, Carol Untch, chairman of the presbytery's Task Force on Ministry with Sexual Minorities, said she took comfort from six listening sessions held earlier, which she believed had encouraged genuine dialogue among people who disagree.

"It's not unexpected," she said of yesterday's vote. "It remains to be seen what happens with the whole denomination."

Of course, there were testimonials from those who belive homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and opposed to ordaining gay clergy.  You can go read the article to catch those.  I'm very sad that Lebanon Presbyterian Church in my home community of West Mifflin seems to generate a lot of the opposition.  I was a member of the youth group for two years.  It was the alternative to my parish down the street which was being served by a pedophile priest who creeped the hell out of me.  Great options, huh?

I'm just pleased that the coverage itself is thoughtful and nuanced.  I really do believe that increasing the profile of people of faith who are allies to our community will help challenge the false claim that every right accorded to a LGBT person is one right removed from a person of faith. 

I also hope the thorough news coverage will help the genuine dialogue continue.


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