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View Article  Indigo Girls Concert/Meet and Greet: Tickets Still Available

SUNDAY JUNE 21, 2009  7:30 PM

Carnegie Music Hall in Homestead     Concert + Reception = $77.00

Limited tickets available (through ...   more »

View Article  Westmoreland Community Colleges removes sexual orientation from non-discrimination language

The Post-Gazette has the story on a recent decision by Westmoreland County Community College to extract two classes from their non-discrimination language. 

Since 2000, Westmoreland County Community College has published notices saying the school will not discriminate against individuals based on various circumstances, including their "sexual orientation" and "union membership."

But the school now says there is another statement that does not contain those four words and that it is the only one approved as an official policy by college trustees -- in a 1998 vote.

So the college has begun the unusual task of striking references to both classes of people from its non-discrimination language, including a statement on the college's Web site.

College President Daniel Obara said yesterday that the decision to delete the words is unrelated to a grievance filed in March on behalf of a gay employee who married in Massachusetts and was denied health insurance for his spouse. However, the president said the school learned of the conflicting language from the college's attorney during an internal meeting called a month ago to discuss the employee's case.

Huh.  From what I'm reading, someone accidentally inserted this language into the policy which then just sort of "caught on" with other publications and documents.  Now that they are aware of the issue, which has been a nonissue for the past 9 years, the College is going to strip people of their protections? In what reality does that make any sense? 

I understand that there is a process to change policy, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply follow that process to bring the actual policy into compliance with established practice?  Wow, that's confusing.  After 9 years, it would be difficult for anti-union/anti-gay forces to have any grounds for predicting the downfall of the College.  No one noticed enough to make a fuss. 

Until someone filed a lawsuit.  Huh.

Mr. Doherty, a WCCC employee for nearly five years, was married last November in North Andover, Mass., where state law recognizes same-sex marriage. After his request for benefits was denied that same month, he appealed, and in March, the Professional Association filed a grievance that is now headed to arbitration.

"We feel it's a just request," said Mr. Hricik, whose union is a part of the Pennsylvania State Employees Association. "[Mr. Doherty] is legally married. It's not legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but he's legally married."

Dr. Obara declined to comment on Mr. Doherty's case, citing the grievance proceeding.

Again, this is just a backwards response to discrimination.  Are they afraid that acknowleding the faux policy will strengthen the suit? 

The Post-Gazette reports that 9 out of 14 community colleges across the Commonwealth include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.  That's the kind of imbalance that HB 300 should rectify.

Westmoreland County Community College will not discriminate in its educational programs, activities or employment practices based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, ancestry or any other legally protected classification. Announcement of this policy is in accordance with state law including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and with federal law, including Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

One a final note, this is another example of the power of a union/LGBTQ alliance.  The union plans to oppose removing the language:

Michael Hricik, an English professor and president of the WCCC Professional Association, said the union will oppose removal of either class from campus publications.

"We feel both should be included in the policy -- especially the area of sexual orientation," he said. "We checked at many of the other community colleges throughout the state of Pennsylvania and they have [sexual orientation] in there."

A much more high profile alliance fermented in California as the two forces worked on a boycott of the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego. 

This is a particularly interesting dynamic here in Southwestern Pennsylvania with our breeding ground for socially conservative Democrats and socially conservative blue collar workers. We are also a LGBTQ community with a significant class divide.  I'd be curious to learn more about the labor sentiments of leaders in our community.  I know one of our forefathers from the 1908s and early 1990s was a unionized teacher who was at the helm of generating class conscious protections within the community and his union. We don't have a contemporary "working class gay hero" here in Pittsburgh.

Well, perhaps we just have one coming out of this mess at WCCC. 


View Article  Lambda Foundation on Facebook

If you are on Facebook, please become a fan of The Lambda Foundation page.  Lambda has been at the heart of many, many LGBT projects, programs and services throughout the past 25 years. 



View Article  How do Jon and Kate + 8 fit into the equal marriage debate?

Justin Kidd of Squirrel Hill has definitely put a very modern twist on the marriage equality debate.  Kidd references the tabloid sensation of the allegedly disintegrating marriage of the TLC reality family, Jon and Kate.

Another front-page story, explains how the train-wreck docudrama episode featuring pseudo-reality stars' failing marriage gained the TLC show its highest ratings to date. Marital infidelity problems, like those alleged to have plagued the pseudo stars' marriage, are a bigger threat to traditional family values than allowing gay people to marry.

Now Mr. Kidd simply thinks that preserving marriage should mean helping couples like Jon and Kate rather than banning gay marriage.  Interesting premis. 

The problem is helping people make the leap from the reality series trainwreck to their own lives.  Half of the nation loves the show and how All-American cute they are.  The other half is appalled at the exploitation of the children (hello, seen a preschool beauty pageant lately?).  Either way, I suspect people would not assign the possible disintigration of the marriage to anything typical because of their fame.  I'm also not sure the whole marriage issue isn't part of the storyline. 

Thanks for writing, Justin. 

View Article  Post-Gazette poll on marriage equality
Vote here: http://postgazette.com/polls/?pollID=3095
View Article  Letter to the Editor: PG didn't go deep enough on marriage analysis

I think Donna Evans of Upper St. Clair meant well when accused the Post-Gazette of shallow examination of the "marriage protection" amendment. 

I am again overwhelmed by the lack of depth of the PG editorial board. Your editorial "Same Old, Same Old" (May 26) espouses the same old marginalization of the enormous societal debate on gay rights to a one-sided issue of tolerance. Yawn! Even the same old divorce rate argument rears its tired head.

This is where I expected her to offer some unique insight into the implication of this legislation.  Something good as opposed to the "same old" one-sided issue of tolerance. 

Unfotunately, Ms. Evans dragged another dusty dinosaur out of the closet:

Herein lies the problem. To deny the religious what is and always has been a profound part of their faith is, now listen, intolerant. To deny gays the financial, health care and other societal benefits bestowed only on heterosexual couples is mightily unjust.

Ms. Evans wants to pit LGBT equality against religious freedom.  What she doesn't acknowledge is that nowhere in this nation does any state entity compel religious institutions to acknowledge or perform same sex marriages.  No ministor, pastor or priest will be required to violate their religious beliefs.

What does happen is that civil employees of the state or county who marry people must comply with the law.  Some cry "what about my religious freedom?"  If we start down this slippery slope of excusing people from their civil jobs to accomodate their religious beliefs, where will it end?  Could a white supremacist refuse to serve African-American children in the restaurant where he works?  Could a Christian refuse to arrest anti-choice protestors?  Or participate in their trial. 

People have all sorts of civil jobs that force them to comply with laws that they may not support or endorse.  There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to civil rights.  Women didn't suddenly stroll into the workplace and get a sunny reception from their male coworkers.  Religious belief does not transcend your civil responsibilities and obligations. 

This is a false dichotomy to stoke the "poor persecuted Christian" imagery with the intent of stirring up the latent zealot in many believers.  You may not feel strongly about gay rights one way or the other, but no one better force you to sit next to them in the pews!  No one better take away your guns, er, communion wafers!  No one better take away your control of women, er, unborn babies!

State Sen. John Eichelberger's bill may be debatable, but you frame it as refusing dignity to one group without any consideration as to how it maintains dignity for another. Semantics may be the problem here, but we all need bigger solutions to this vast and complex issue -- whether you are religious, gay or both. Maybe the PG could serve us all better by digging a little deeper.

Donna, the truth is that this issue has been mined to death.  Society is not equal when people are denied their rights because of who they are.  Society is not equal if people can opt out of the laws they don't like.   That's not about stripping people of their dignity, dear. It is about holding people accountable for their responsibilities and their rights.

I personally do not think this is big or vast. The social dynamics of homophobia, especially as they intersect with struggle over class, race, gender and economic condition, are quite vast.  The manifestation of that homophobia in anti-marriage equality efforts is just plain bigotry.  Nothing particularly vast.  The idea that the voters or politicians should decide who gets civil rights and who doesn't should be simple enough, but we have learned little from history.  That's complicated.

The solution will have to tread carefully around the smoldering zealots, tis true.  There is a core group of people who loathe LGBTQ folks and refuse to concede that we deserve equal treatment.  They will use any weapon, including fanning religious smoke screens, to drive their agenda.  Galvanizing persons of faith from within the demoninations is critical.  It is great to have very liberal, gay friendly communities of faith.  I think, however, it would more important for all the Catholic parents (like mine) who love, respect and value their LGBTQ children to speak out from within the structure.  My parents would be very uncomfortable with my trying to change their religion, but they would happily attend my marriage ceremony.  I'm sure there are plenty of other parents like that.

Down with the false dichotomy! 


View Article  PA Senator plans to introduce marriage equality bill

OK, on the one hand we have the "marriage protection" amendment that would embed discrimination in to the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Been there, tried to do that.

Today comes word that another Pennsylvania Senator plans to introduce a marriage equality bill.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, today announced plans to introduce a bill that would offer "full and equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania." The measure also would recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

"There has never been a more propitious time for Pennsylvania to embrace equality and enshrine the civil right of all Pennsylvanians to marry," Mr. Leach said.

But don't tell that to Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair. He wants to strengthen Pennsylvania's 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as only permitted between one man and one woman.

Mr. Eichelberger has a bill to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only allowable between one man and one woman. He thinks that would make it more difficult for an "activist court" decision to overturn the 1996 law.

Before you raise the religious infringement argument, please note that Senator Leach's legislation would not require any religious group or organization to recognize or perform marriages which they "don't sanction."  No word from Diane Gramley and the American Family Association of Pennsylvania on this newest twist in Pennsylvania equality efforts.

Wow.  I am very curious as to how this will play out. The argument against the "marriage protection" amendment has been the Pennsylvania DOMA which prohibits same sex marriages.  In other words, the existing law was good enough to "protect" opposite sex marriage so no need to amend the Constitution.  That's no longer absolutely true.

Will this move force socially conservative legislators to move to the right in support of the amendment or to the middle in support of neither bill (and perhaps to pass the less scary HB 300 as no one has argued that housing protections will destroy heterosexual marriages --- yet)?  Will this galvanize the progressive wing of Pennsylvania and create a surge of grassroots energy to move the Commonwealth closer to equality for all citizens?  I'm fairly certain it will galvanize the wingnuts, but the trifecta of state legislation might just divide their energies as folks pick their poison to speak. 

I had a conversation with the President of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats who continues to urge concerned citizens to schedule face to face meetings with their legislators.  That is the single best tool you have to push for full equality. 

There's a lot on the table -- the two anti-discrimination bills, the pending hate crimes bill, the anti-gay "marriage protection" and now this effort to promote marriage equality.  This is an important time to take action.  Make a Pride resolution to add a few hours of meeting time to your celebration time. 

Remember, Stonewall was about standing up and fighting back against oppression and discrimination.  Celebrate the spirit by being part of the solution.


View Article  Western Pennsylvania Humane Society fundraiser gone wrong

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society conducted an "e" cyling event to recycle electronic goods.  They partnered with a company called EarthEcycle. 

I was perplexed as to how ecycling could be a fundraiser given that most companies charge consumers to dispose of electronic goods. I asked a few question and was promptly attacked by staff, volunteers and the EarthEcycle owner for essentially hating dogs and those who want to help them. Oh and I was "possibly" engaged in corporate espionage.  All because I wanted to make sure my television wasn't being dumped in a remote Thai village. 

It was an ugly, ugly exchange. 

Tonight WDUQ and WTAE ran stories about allegations that the company is shipping a portion of the materials overseas.  The Humane Society is backtracking.  $150,000 funds raised might do that.

I wonder if any of those proceeds will be used to help the animals whose welfare is irreparably damaged by the ewaste dumping?


Stay tuned for a Post-Gazette investigation.

View Article  Outrage the Movie to Open in Pittsburgh

Today I received word that the movie Outrage will be showing at the Harris Theater, starting on June 19, 2009!

From fearless documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film is Not Yet Rated) comes a searing indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the lesbian and gay community to which they covertly belong. Outrage reveals the hidden lives of some of the most powerful policymakers in the US, and the damage done by keeping secrets. It presents analysis from many prominent members of the gay community, such as Congressman Barney Frank, former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, activist Larry Kramer, and controversial blogger Mike Rogers ? whose blog has spearheaded the movement to out closeted, anti-gay-rights politicians. This bold film is sure to stir debate, and perhaps make an impact on the continuing same-sex civil rights battle. (Kirby Dick; USA; 2009; 87 min)

This movie is sure to outrage you as the depth of hypocrisy comes to light.  Southwestern Pennsylvania has three individuals alone connected to this outrageous conduct --- none are politicians so stop speculating about that.  Go to http://www.blogactive.com/ and see for yourself.

Kudos to the Pittsburgh Filmmakers for making this happen.  I think this is an important film and hope you will make plans to see it.

Mike Rogers, btw, will be in Pittsburgh for the NetRoots Nation Conference in August.  If you want to meet him, stayed tuned for the opportunity. 


View Article  Prop 8 Upheld

You probably heard this.  The California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, but also said that existing same sex marriages are valid.

Tune in here for the latest responses from the LGBTQ community and leaders. 

Here are photos from the protest. 

Simply outrageous that voters can strip minority groups of their rights.  Have we learned nothing from history?  Seriously!

What to do?  Pick up your phone and call your elected officials to remind them that equality in Pennsylvania is non-negotiable. 

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