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View Article  Explanation of the Philadelphia Model

This is the best explanation I've heard from Kris Rust, former chair of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats:

"Philadelphia model - The biggest improvement in terms of BGLT rights, as I see it, is not writing into law that religious organizations who receive funding are exempt from the ordinance.  Since the ordinance is silent on the funding question, that leaves open the possibility of the executive writing compliance with the ordinance into contracts."

So while version #1 would have required all religious organizations to comply (obviously, ideal) and version #2 would exempt all religious organizations (obviously, not good), version #3 sidesteps the funding issue which leaves open the possibility of addressing it later.

So that seems better. 

View Article  The Question Is ...
... what happens Thursday morning if the ordinance doesn't pass (or gets tabled b/c of no show elected officials)?
View Article  Update: Coalition Proposes Alternate Wording for County Non-Discrimination Ordinance

UPDATE:  New information has been coming in from various sources.  Allegedly, Drozd and Macy are not going to vote for this.  Finnerty is a maybe (412) 350-6540 [email protected].  He represents District 4 (Crafton, Robinson, Bridgeville, McKees Rocks).

Also, another member of County Council may be threatening not to show up which could derail a majority.  That is Councilman Futules from District 7 (412) 350-6555 [email protected].  (Oakmont, Penn Hills, Plum, Verona).

Here's where you can find your district. http://www.alleghenycounty.us/council/dist.aspx

****************************************************************************

The amended amendment language has been released by the Coalition for the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance (the members of this coalitioni have not been announced but includes Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Equality Advocates, Delta Foundation and the Women's Law Project, I think). 

NOTE:  I received an email version.  It has not yet been posted online, but should be available at the Steel City Stonewall site soon. www.steel-city.org

OK, so basically they want to further amend the language of the ordinance to follow the established practice in Philadelphia.  This means there is no registry of anti-gay religious organizations and, thus, removes the ability to discriminate.  That's good  supposed to be good in terms of constitutionally acceptable, but it remains unclear how that benefits the LGBTQ community. 

The bad?  Well, the amended amentment exempts Sectarian, Religious, Charitable and Fraternal organization from complying with the Human Relations Ordinance.  It also means those with public funding (your tax dollars) can still discriminate.  

The caveat to that little unpleasantry is that individual contracts related to the funding can include a requirement to comply with the law.  Back door politics, but at least there's an option. This is what's going on Philadelphia and it seems to work.  It remains unclear how well it is working because there is little research and the legal participants in the working group are not at the table right now. 

In the words of the Coalition:

This ordinance meets the highest standard in trans-inclusive language in the Commonwealth.  That being said we believe that we should SUPPORT amending the amendment as proposed by the coalition and PASSING County Council bill 4201-08.  We believe that this ordinance will protect a majority of LGBT citizens of Allegheny County against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

This solution to the original unconstitutional amendments is workable might get the votes and came about in consultation with Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato (I'm sure all your calls nudged him.)  Important to note that the ordinance provides protections based on gender identity and gender expression which is critically important to our community.  I understand that concerns about dropping this language came up early in the discussion, but soon faded away as the issue turned to how to preserve the freedom of religious organizations to practice their homophobia unfettered by the law.  This seems to be the best compromise and a very workable solution that creates the socio-political and economic climate so vital to our region's growth.  This seems to be the only compromise that will scrape a majority vote together, but it is not a done deal.  It *is* clear to me that our elected officials fail to see the connection between a community that strengthens the workplace and housing resources makes for overall better economic conditions.

So, the message from the Working Group is that we support amending the amendment and passage of the amended amended ordinance.  The critical part of the meeting tomorrow will be the outcome of the amending the amendment process.  Got that?

Should you still make calls? You bet.  Call 'em up and let them know that we want an ordinance that is constitutional and you would  might accept the Philadelphia model to protect the majority of LGBTQ citizens in Allegheny County.  Your calls to the four folks I wrote about earlier (Drozd, Burn, Robinson and Macy) are especially useful.

Not sure yet who will introduce the amendment to the amended ordinance, but common sense says it will be Amanda Green or Rich Fitzgerald.  I spoke with organizers just minutes ago and was told it hasn't been determined yet. 

The coalition should certainly be commended for their hard work, but I want to make sure to thank each of you who really demonstrated ownership of your destiny (dare I say your existance?) by stepping forward and letting your voice be heard.  Our community is at the center of a virtual whirlwind of legislation and issues on the local, state and federal levels.  Channeling the frustration over Eichelberger's comment into telephone calls for a proactive piece of legislation is the exact opposite of what he hoped to accomplish with his hate-laced rhetoric.  Kudos to everyone who took control and reframed the conversation in our own terms. 

Rest assured, this is not over.  There is still the vote tomorrow.  And then on Thursday, there will be other votes to address, particularly HB 300.  There will also need to be oversight within the County to ensure that the contracts are requiring compliance with the law.  I would personally believe this is important with regard to CYF foster care contracts  -- with 20,000+ Pennsylvania children in the foster care system, there is simply not the luxury of debating whether gay people can be good foster parents simply based on their sexual orientation, assuming they meet the other criteria. 

Let me put in one last plug before I go off to cook dinner for Ledcat.  Quite a few folks have asked who are the leaders involved in this and how to get in touch with them.  I say -- join the Steel City Stonewall Democrats.  Not only will you learn who is who in the local LGBTQ advocacy world, but you will literally be at the table and helping make the decisions.

View Article  It is working, folks!

Word on the street er, via cell phone and text is that YOUR hard work and persistance is paying off.  The calls are being noticed both by Chief Executive Dan Onorato and the assorted County Councilpersons. 

In fact, some County Councilpersons are returning calls to their constituents which like never happens.  That must mean the sheer volume of calls is making them sit up and take notice, as well as the fact that they are about to do something unconstitutional. 

The Post-Gazette will have a story in the morning paper (maybe tonight on the website?) and told me they will cover the meeting itself.

I'm awash in tweets, IMs, texts, email, FB messages, comments, and so forth.  I'm a social media magnet and my thumbs are getting sore.  Thank goodness for the restorative properties of Starbucks. 

So here is where we stand.  There are four County Councilman who need to be targeted.  Call tonight and leave a voicemail message.  Send an email message.  If you don't live in these districts, figure out if you know someone who does. 

Councilman Matt Drozd, District 1 (412) 350-6525  [email protected]

Councilman Jim Burn, District 3  (412) 350-6535     [email protected]  ** also chair of Allegheny Co. Democratic Committee

Councilman Bob Macy, District 9  (412) 350-6565  [email protected]

Councilman Bill Robinson, District 10  (412) 350-6570   [email protected]

Burn, Macy and Robinson are responsible for the amendments.  It seems they aren't really aware of the constitutional issues AND how it makes the LGBTQ community, well, feel to "protect" religious organizations from us.  I sure don't like the feeling that the County will bend over so far backward that they'll say on paper that any form of discrimination is permissible just to appease homophobic churches.  That's pretty damn demeaning.  I also don't want to fund discrimination with my tax dollars.  If churches want an exemption, they need to give up the money.  Otherwise, play by the rules.

Not sure who represents you?  Here's a breakdown. 

District 1 - Drozd

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

District 3 - Burn

3 Aspinwall
3 Blawnox
3 Brackenridge
3 East Deer
3 Etna
3 Fawn
3 Fox Chapel
3 Frazer
3 Harrison
3 Indiana
3 Millvale
3 O'Hara
3 Reserve
3 Shaler
3 Sharpsburg
3 Springdale Township
3 Tarentum

Distric 9 - Macy

9 Dravosburg
9 Duquesne
9 Elizabeth Borough
9 Elizabeth Township
9 Forward
9 Glassport
9 Liberty
9 Lincoln
9 McKeesport
9 Port Vue
9 South Versailles
9 Versailles
9 West Mifflin
9 White Oak

District 10 - Robinson

10 Pittsburgh - 3rd Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 4th Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 5th Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 8th Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 11th Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 12th Ward
10 Pittsburgh - 13th Ward
10 Wilkinsburg

View Article  Positive LGBTQ letter to the editor

Woke up a bit early this morning and had a nice surprise.  Ian Price of Friendship took the time to write in with his thoughts on the impact of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ Pride March.

In the spirit of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary, we stop and reflect on the great things Pittsburgh has achieved and on the wonderful things that continue to grow. One of these needs to be the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community and its contribution to the civil rights movement. Forty years after the Stonewall riots, pride is not only about the "gay" movement, but the rights of all Americans to conduct their lives according to their own consciences. Forty years ago, we asserted that we would not live in a police state, that we would not live double lives, and that American society would be a wonderful blend of differences.

Pride celebrates, supports and welcomes all people, not only the ones under the LGBT banner. Pittsburgh should be proud that it has cultivated and grown such a robust community dedicated to this fundamentally American ideal.

Ian is the first person I've seen put Stonewall into the context of Pittsburgh's 250th Anniversary and how very apt that is!  Pittsburgh continues to boast a thriving gay community with the welcome addition of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center's relocation to Grant Street -- just a few steps away from the City-County Building.

His "pride" contrasts sadly with reports of a police initiated invasion of a gay bar in Ft. Worth, the significant number of closeted homosexuals (including many Western PA politicians - hello!) and continued gay-baiting from communities of faith intent on imposing their world view on the conduct of other people.

Still, we thrive. Ian mentions Dan Onorato's speech at PrideFest and yesterday an unknown number of local gays and allies flooded his office with calls about the Human Relations Act.  Openly gay individuals around the nation are coming out and running (and winning!) for elected office, including our own City Councilman Bruce Kraus.  The Independent (formerly Santorum supporting Republican) candidate for Mayor, Kevin Acklin, announced his support for marriage equality. So did Fred Honsberger. 

Outrage, the movie exposing hypocrisy in the gay community, did well enough for the Pgh Filmmakers to extend its run for another week or so.  NetRoots Nation, a conference with a huge amount of progressive attendees, comes rolling into town in August. 

Work continues on the Allegheny County Human Relations Act. The media is watching.  A statement on the most recent updates is expected early this afternoon.  Tomorrow night we could take a huge step forward. 

Keep the calls going, my friends.  Show your dedication to the fundamental American ideals.

View Article  National Roundup

Dear Lord, I have no clue where to begin.  I've been so focused on the local scene that I've lost touch with what's happening on a federal level.  How about you?  I'm on a national LGBTQ blogging email list and the volume is mindblowing.  Sometimes I feel like I'm crouching in the corner trying to figure out what people who are ten times smarter than me are talking about. 

Here's a few links worth following:

Pam's House Blend has been following the story on the White House Stonewall Cocktail Reception.  Yep, its a controversy because of the tension between LGBTQ leaders and the White House's snail pace response to federal LGBTQ issues. She's also been covering the boycott/protest of DNC fundraising events. 

Then there is the police instigated gay bashing event at a Fort Worth bar.  Just in time for the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall.  Some things never change.

The Washington Blade has the latest predictions on ENDA.  Our own Congressman Mike Doyle is supposed to be signing on as a cosponsor.  I have yet to verify that, but I'll let you know as soon as I do.

That's just a smidgen of the news.  It is just great that coverage of LGBTQ events has skyrocket and I think it is very much due to the unrelenting work of bloggers and other new social media activists.  When NetRoots nation hits town in August, you'll have a chance to see what I mean. 

View Article  LGBTQ Family Picnic scheduled for August

This is a neat event.  The Lambda Foundation and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh are cohosting their first ever LGBTQ Family (friendly) Picnic on Sunday, August 9, 2009.  Here's the details:

 

WHERE: NORTH PARK GOLD STAR GROVE

 

WHEN: SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 2009 12:00 TO 6:00PM

 

FISHING CONTEST AND GAMES FOR THE KIDS

 

PRIZES AND PLENTY OF FOOD

 

PETS WELCOME

 

TICKETS $20 PER FAMILY

         $10 SINGLES

 

PLEASE CALL 412-521-5444 FOR TICKETS.

I've been hearing various folks talk about a desire for more family friendly activities.  This seems like a nice opportunity to fuse that kind of event with support for two community organizations.  The cost is fairly reasonable if you break it down to a per person rate ($5 per person for lunch for a family of 4) which is also something folks have been talking about in light of some of the pricier recent events. 

The number of LGBTQ families is on the increase and as the political/social culture becomes more affirming, it is only natural that community groups need to create family positive programs to tap into this segment of the community.  One really good blog is Mombian.  I met the editor at a LGBTQ blogging conference in DC last year.  She's bright and does a great job of bringing attention from national issues back to the family perspective.

So, here's your chance to turn out and demonstrate that family friendly events can be successful.  Plus, you'll have an opportunity to talk with leaders from both organizations and encourage them to cultivate more programs to meet your family's needs. 

Here in Pittsburgh, there's a group call Families Like Ours (FLO) which has an email list and is beginning to organize some face to face events and activities. 

This is exactly a group that community political groups should be tapping into.  Fighting for the civil rights of your children is a pretty basic instinct and I don't think it is hard to make the connection between equality for our families and better lives for our children.

So save the date and hope to see you there! 

 

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View Article  A few personal reflections on the Allegheny County Ordinance

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to mobilize folks to call County elected officials on Monday in the hopes that the Human Relations ordinance can be salvaged.  I've been texting, tweeting and talking non-stop for most of the day (ask Ledcat).  I feel like Scott Hanley during a WDUQ pledge drive.  I even memorized the County telephone number.  That's kind of sad considering I can barely remember my own work number.

I have been sort of glad not to stop and think about where I might come down if the ordinance comes to a vote as currently worded.  It is not too late to impact the process and I sincerely hope you will make a call.

The advocates I've been speaking with are being very careful.  Some want any version to pass, others do not want this verion period regardless of the potential to challenge the unconstitutional portions in court. 

I confess that I'm struggling to buy the "something is better than nothing" argument.  The potential for long term damage is pretty daunting. The idea that Mr. Onorato could ride this sort of victory into the "I'm a gay ally" sunset in his quest for Governor is disappointing.  The impact on communities of faith that have been allies for decades is dismaying.

I hope that Dan Onorato can save the day.  Gulp. 

 

View Article  Somtimes, the Post-Gazette really pisses me off

Like this weekend.  I open the Forum section to read an entire piece about deliberative polling on same sex marriage that is first of all, dull, and secondly, completely devoid of any actual human terms.  Like gay.  Or homosexual.  Or LGBT. 

This pretty much sums up how we can sanitize the whole issue to satisfy the homos without actually having to refer to them:

This Deliberative Poll deserves careful consideration by state legislators as they consider amendments to the state constitution or constitutional referenda. And to those like state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, who seek to broaden the legal recognition of same-sex couples, it appears that the issue is best framed as one of "civil marriage." This phrase combines the informed opinions of our deliberations. It draws an important distinction between state and church by differentiating the civil marriage contract from religious marriage sacraments.

As to the polling process itself, an overwhelming majority of participants found the experience helpful, enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. These were not college students, but a randomly selected sample of Pennsylvania voters, with a median age of 54.

Considering that the topic combined sex, religion and politics, perhaps we all should employ the process when our families sit down around the dinner table.


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09179/980133-109.stm#ixzz0Jjjg8CYx&D

My head is going to explode.  Seriously.   We've spent the last week trying to get Tom Barnes or LA Johnson or Tony Norman to acknowledge that the issue of "allowing us to exist" is newsworthy.  Clearly, we would be better served setting up enjoyable and intellectually stimulating experiences to sanitize discussions of homosexuality and make it more appealing by using clarifiers so as not to frighten the masses.

Listen up.  Marriae has two meanings.  That isn't my fault.  The civil meaning has been there since the founding of this Nation and no one saw fit to change the lingo during any other great debates over the Century.  So don't cry to me now about how it frightens the little Christians to share their word (and tax benefits) with the queers.  That's clear.  Let's move on.

If the Post-Gazette thinks this is the news thats fit to print relative to the gay community in Pittsburgh ... an entire column about gay marriage without the word gay. Sheesh.

View Article  Monday Call to Action

Call 412-350-6500. Ask Onorato to remove language from the proposed Human Relations Ordinance that allows organizations receiving County funding to discriminate....   more »

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