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View Article  The Death of a Champion

This weekend brings sad news to the LGBTQ community among many others as we learned of the death of long time ACLU advocate, Larry Frankel. From the PG obiturary:

Mr. Frankel, the legislative director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union from 1992 through 2008, died last week.

His body was found Friday on a jogging trail in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

Though autopsy results are pending, it is believed that he died from natural causes.

Mr. Frankel left the Pennsylvania office last year to become the state legislative counsel for the ACLU in Washington, D.C.

His work there included advising all 50 state ACLU offices on national matters, said Sara Mullen, the associate director of the Pennsylvania organization.

"I think he felt like he accomplished all he could. Not many people could handle Harrisburg for that long," Ms. Mullen said. "Moving on to a bigger stage meant he would have a much larger impact."

Reports began leaking out over the blogosphere and through Twitter/Facebook throughout the weekend, but no concrete details were available.  On Friday, when Frankels' then unidentified body was found in a D.C. park, PA Representative Mark Cohen posted on Young Philly Politics.com .

Longtime Pennsylvania ACLU lobbyist and Executive Director Larry Frankel, who in the last year or so has become the lobbyist for the national ACLU, has apparently been found dead in Washington under mysterious circumstances. Larry was 54. This is a breaking news story in which most key facts are still generally unknown.

Frankel was an outstanding lobbyist for the Pennsylvania ACLU in Harrisburg, taking positions on scores to hundreds of bills each year. He was a coalition builder reminiscent of Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate or William Brennan on the U.S. Supreme Court, who agressively reached out to unlikely allies like the National Rifle Association to help persuade members of the legislature that the ACLU was addressing broad concerns.

His aggressive outreach removed the ACLU from the fringes or margins of state policy and moved it toward the center of direct involvement.

A proud gay man, he was militant on the issue of gay marriage, believing that it was far more important to keep the legal option of gay marriage by defeating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage than to enact civil unions legislation, an uphill battle that some, including myself, thought was winnable. His views on gay marriage were somewhat vindicated when four New England states and the state of Iowa legalized gay marriage this year.

Larry believed in the importance of facts in making decisions. His correspondence with legislators was full of facts. While his extraordinary depth of knowledge of public policy occassionally made him seem arrogant, I always found him deeply respectful to those whom he had not yet convinced.

The Philadelphia Daily News has their obituary here.

I've had the privilege of hearing Larry speak a few times at ACLU events in Pittsburgh, most recently during PrideFest when he facilitated an ACLU forum on LGBTQ rights.  At the time I was struck by his commitment to return from a nationwide position to speak at a Pittsburgh forum - a sure sign of his loyalty to his roots and his passionate belief in the advancement of our civil rights. 

The national LGBTQ rights community is also mourning Larry's loss so I believe posts will be popping around the blogosphere today.  

God speed, Larry.


Memorial contributions made me made in Larry's honor to the ACLU Foundation.

View Article  Update: Federal Appeals Court Allows Discrimination Case Based On Gender Stereotyping

I brought this to your attention a year ago when Brian Prowel appealed a federal court anti-discrimination ruling that determined what he had experienced in his workplace was based on his sexual orientation, not gender stereotyping.

Yesterday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and will allow Mr. Prowel to make his case.

"There is no basis in the statutory or case law to support the notion that an effeminate heterosexual man can bring a gender stereotyping claim while an effeminate homosexual man may not," wrote 3rd Circuit Judge Thomas M. Hardiman.

Instead, the employee must simply present evidence of harassment or discrimination "because of sex," and let a jury decide, he said.

Attorneys for Mr. Prowel yesterday lauded the appeals court decision, calling it important for workplace discrimination law.

"This case is significant to any person in the workplace who doesn't meet expectations because of their gender," said attorney Timothy P. O'Brien.

This means that Prowel's attorney will have an opportunity to present the case to a jury for determination whether the harassment he endured was based on the fact that he is gay or based on the fact that he is an effeminate man who did not conform to the work place's expectations of masculine behavior.

The court ruling doesn't determine the basis for the discrimination, but it does allow for the possibility that it could be due to gender expectations.  We all know how the blurry the line can be between gender expression and sexual orientation -- this decision does not allow employers to hide behind legal gay bashing to defend themselves from these accusations. 

It is important to note that this ruling sets the precedent for the entire 3rd Circuit, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Sexual orientation is a protected class in employment in Delaware.  Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are protected in New Jersey.  Thus, an intricate situation could be considered on both merits.

Something I pointed out last September is the fact that the employer doesn't deny workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Among the allegations made by Mr. Prowel are claims that he was often called "Rosebud" and "Princess," that fellow employees left personal lubricant on his work station, and that he was harassed for walking effeminately and talking with a high voice.

So this behavior was acceptable to the employer.  It won't end until it is illegal.  While we want this case to succeed  in order to highlight the gender-baiting unpinning so much homophobia, we can't count on a court ruling to protect us.

We must insist that HB 300 pass on a statewide level.  No one should have personal lubricant left on their desk.  As for the mocking?  Do you want to work in the 7th grade hallway -- cause that's pretty much what you should expect. 


View Article  PrideCast

Tune into OutOnline's Pridecast this weekend where I'll be sitting in with host Jason Lucarelli to bring a lesbian perspective to the show.  I'm planning to delve into the controversy surround South African female runner, Caster Semenya, who is being forced to undergo gender testing in the wake of accusations that she is, in fact, a man.  This is an incredibly complicated story that should give us pause to think about the implication of expanding our concept of gender identity. 

It was only two years ago that a smaller scale battle threatened to tear the lesbian community apart as organizers of Celebrate the Night, a hugely popular fundraiser among the slightly older lesbian crowd, denied a female identified performer the opportunity to participate, claiming she had not transitioned enough to meet their vague definition of being a female.  It was heated and bigotry carried the day, ripping back the curtain that hides Pittsburgh's queer community internalized homophobia and transphobia. 

I've said this before, but I think my coming out later in my young adulthood rather than earlier helped me understand the complexities of continuums.  Good stuff to discuss.

On a lighter note, I'm hoping we can spend some time chatting about an emerging trend in daytime television - prominent LGBT storylines.  From BAM to NUKE, queer couples are gaining fans and garnering ratings.

Hope to see you (so to speak) Sunday afternoon.  Be sure to log in to OutConnect during the show to chat with Jason and myself live!

View Article  Status of permits
The march on Friday 25 has not received permit. They appreciate commitment but need permit

Believe they should get to one block away from Convention Center.
Sue Kerr
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  G20
Teamsters showed up chanting because they are mad about Jim Ferlo. They cheered on the labor speakers and headed inside to look for Jim.

"We are part of the City of Pittsburgh," says a soccer mom. They want public meetings with feds to announce plans. They are in place but just withholding information. This promotes chaos which is driving the fear mongering.

Sue Kerr
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  Update from press conference
I am lurking around picking up juicy tidbits. Caught Doug Shields on his way in to meet with Public Safety Director, Michael Huss. So he stopped to give KDKA an interview. He assures civil rights will be balanced with public safety. He also claims police are there to protect the G20 folks not crack down on the dissenters.

I think that is a bit rosy. They are there to keep most of us out. IMHO
of course.

I just got a press kit. More later after I look at it.
Sue Kerr
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  Untitled
Al Hart from the UE comments that losing two days pay is a hardship. They are asking City Council to speak up for the average people.
Sue Kerr
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  Live from Merton Ctr Conference
I am downtown at City County Bldg for the Thomas Merton Ctr press conference. I am blogging on blsckberry so I hope this comes thru. If u could send me a tweet or text telling me you can read this, that would be awesome.

So far, WPXI and WTAE are here and a handful of folks gathered. I am early thanks to traffic gods. More later.
Sue Kerr
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
View Article  Lutherans and Letters

Ann Rodgers talks with a few local Lutherans about their reaction to the recent decision to accept partnered gay clergy.  The language of acceptance was carefully tailored to allow those who object to equality on the basis of their religious beliefs to be free to continue to associate their bigotry with the Lutheran denomination.

Wow.  That's not a very reconciling sentence is it?  Still, I'm tired of being tiptoed around by frightened Christians, so whatever.  The trends in Christianity as a system are less and less relevant to my day to day life.  The behaviors of Christian-identified individuals is much more relevant.  Most people that I know who identify as Christian are relatively cool people who can compartmentalize their regular attendance at Mass with their true social justice beliefs. That's fine with me.  Let's have dinner. 

I mean who has time for this.

It's our job to continue to reach out in love to those who feel alienated," she said.

Among them is the Rev. David Gleason, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Downtown.

"I'm sort of in a state of disbelief," he said. "It was almost mind-numbing to see your church ripped apart right in front of you. I think there is more depression than there is anger on the part of people who opposed this change."

He has parishioners on both sides. Some were thrilled, while others are asking how the congregation can stay in the denomination. He is counseling patience and holding meetings to help people work through their reactions. He has always told them that First Lutheran doesn't have to be affected by what the national church does, he said.

Still, he expects a variety of groups to try to lead his people out of the denomination. He was among several pastors in the synod to receive a lunch invitation from a local pastor in the 2.3 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is far more conservative than the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Lutheran CORE, a national movement of theological conservatives within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, isn't calling for a split. The Rev. Paull Spring, chairman of CORE, a State College, Centre County resident and retired bishop of Erie, warned against comparisons to the split in the Episcopal Church.

"We are not forming a new church. Our structure and polity are quite different from the Episcopal Church. We are asking people to stay as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America," he said.

Nevertheless, he said, his group will be reorganizing as an alternative support system for congregations that can no longer trust denominational leadership, he said.

They didn't win, is how I read it, so now they are voting themselves off the island.  More battles over properties and endowments will ensue.  Mainstream Christianity will continue to breakdown as millions of Americans are led along by warring factions.  Reverend Gleason doesn't say what he did to educate his parishioners on the fact that gay persons are human beings to or to prepare them to embrace differences with open arms and hearts, rather than gathering their toys to take them home. 

One serious issue the LGBT community faces is that too many people within the mainstream congregations remain silent.  Someone at Reverend Gleason's church has a queer kid or sibling.  Was their a dialogue?  Do heterosexual Christians strive to put human faces on "the issue"?  That's what Janet Edwards keeps calling folks to do.  Are you up for the challenge?

Ann Rodgers is a good writer on religious issues, but I don't see how she has the patience to do it. 

On a related note, Geoff Mackey of Mt. Lebanon writes in to the Post-Gazette, taking Diane Gramley and the American Family Association of PA to task for co-opting the term family.

I'm also curious why right-wing conservative groups hijack the name "family" in their names? Gay and lesbian Americans are products of families; most gays I know still have great relationships with their families of origin. Gays and lesbians adopt children and create their own families. When did the word "family" elevate someone to a higher moral ground? Are heterosexual men and women who choose to remain single and not create a family "less than"? Please stop co-opting the word "family" as uniquely yours.

He also wonderfully takes the bull by the horns when it comes to her "poor Boy Scouts" argument

If the Boy Scouts are negatively impacted by the ordinance, so be it. They have taken the concept of being "morally straight" to literally mean "heterosexual," which is an affront to respectable gay men who could contribute much to their organization.

Yes, finally someone is acknowleding that the Boy Scouts are making a conscious choice that makes them ineligible for public funding.  We've spent so much time here downplaying the issue of Boy Scounts being denied public land for their camping trips, that many queers have lost sight of the fact that the Boy Scounts DISCRIMINATE against kids and adults who are gay, not to mention damage the heterosexual kids who are taught that being gay is a bad thing (too bad if that includes your older brother).  I refuse to support them. I don't buy their junk.  I don't toss money in the collection box.  I would battle professionally against allowing them to use space that is dedicated to nondiscrimination against the LGBTQ community.  It isn't just a theory way above the kids' heads. It sends a clear message to the 12 year old trying to figure out what's going on inside his heart that he better keep his mouth shut if he wants to enjoy the perks of Scouting. 

Great job, Geoff.

Here's some hilarious feedback from PG readers who clearly don't have enough work on their desks in response to a letter affirming the LGBT community.  I'd almost prefer someone to tell me they hate me for being gay, rather than hide behind "I don't approve of your lifestyle choices, but I tolerate you.  And by the way you can't be a Christian or have any rights until you embrace the truth and the light." 

A recent post about recycling even drew out the homophobia, including this:

Ok, you really have my attention now. The status quo? A bunch of women with alternative sexual orientation is the status quo? I don't remember anything about that in the old or new testaments. That would be status quo. You ladies really have it twisted. You have absolutely no idea what your talking about. It appears you just want to be angry about something and at someone rather than have intelligent conversation to discuss what is best and plan a course of action that is suitable for your educated beliefs.

I bet this guy would deny being a homophobe.  He would point out that he has gay friends; he's just labeling a specific bunch of women with whom he disagrees and that's not homophobic.  There's a big assumption on his part that any one of the other commenters are lesbians, but also the handy label of being "angry." 


View Article  Newsflash: I'll be working with Pridecast

Good news this Monday morning, especially for those of you wishing OUT in Pittsburgh media had more lesbian content and coverage.  I've been invited to be a recurring guest on their biweekly podcast, PRIDEcast with Jason Lucarelli.

This will be a great chance to talk about important issues such as HB 300, the formation of the County Human Relations Commission, the March on Washington planned for October and other important social/political issues as well as some of the everycday things happening in Pittsburgh. 

While this will be separate and distinct from Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents so I'll have to save some of my opinions for the blog (ahem), it does bring at least one new lesbian perspective to the new social media realm and the OUT family.  (Jane Muder does a great job in the print version).

OUTonline is forging some new territory in this regard, including a mini-social network with a gay twist - somewhere to hang out online and get to meet other LGBTQ persons.

Check it out and tune in Sunday, September 6 for my second appearance.  We are planning on a great discussion about getting more members of the community involved in advocacy - promise it won' tbe all preachy and boring. 

More issues to cover, but this is my first day back at work after my grandmother's funeral and my bout with bronchitis so I must roll off to the office. 

I'm quite excited. 

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The Correspondents