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View Article  Lt. Dan Choi discharged from US Army; Continues to Serve

You may have heard by now that Lt. Dan Choi was honorably discharged from the United States Army under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.  Lt. Choi, fluent in Arabic, was serving as a linguist. 

Dan has also been an advocate for the LGBT community.  He was in Pittsburgh courtesy of the Delta Foundation in August 2009.  Most recently, he has been working with Get Equal to engage in civil disobedience, twice chaining himself to the White House fence while in full uniform.  His movement from fundraisers to political activism has been fascinating to watch and certainly parallels the failure of the Obama Administration (and the mighty gays) to repeal DADT. 

Even as the political will of the elite weakens, the will of activists like Choi grows. 

Still, discharge must have been a deeply painful moment.  It is certainly painful for the non-Arabic speaking soldiers who are now at even more of a disadvantage thanks to Obama's systemic policy of intolerance and discrimination.

In a powerful moment, Choi sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was addressing the NetRoots Nation conference.  It contained his West Point ring which he sent as a pledge of his ongoing service to the United States, asking for it to be returned when DADT is repealed. 

Courtesy of Pam's House Blend, please read the words of an American patriot.

July 24, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader:


Dear Harry:

My West Point ring has always symbolized an irrevocable promise: my commitment to serving America and my duty to defend freedom and justice. Today, with my discharge from the army for telling the truth, the ring takes on a new meaning, serving as a symbol for the enduring pain of broken promises.

America was founded on the principles of inalienable rights, equality, and the promise of justice for all. But today, Americans remain segregated from that promise.  Fired from our jobs, discriminated in the military, denied equal access to our own integrity and acknowledgement of our families, we cannot conclude that our country has manifested its own promise, over 230 years later.

You have also made personal promises to me that the senate would repeal military discrimination before the end of 2009. Indeed, you sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates, claiming that was the most you could do to save my career. You promised to lead on repeal of discrimination. I believed your promise because you are the most powerful senator in America. Truly, no one can do more. The false hope of your promise has been made real to me today with another letter: the letter terminating my military service.

But I present this ring to you, symbolizing my promise as a fellow citizen: my service continues.

I promise I will hold you accountable to your obligations to lead in the effort to end discrimination, both in the workplace and in the military. My promise is not merely written on a piece of paper or words alone, but in the hearts of every lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender American fired from their jobs because of broken promises from those who purport to be our friends. History will judge us and conclude that the greatest obstacles to justice were not the loud rants of bigots, but the quiet fears of those unwilling to stand firm in the fulfillment of their commitments. I refuse to allow my friends register themselves in history as obstacles to justice.

I commit to you my renewed pledge and continued service. To you and all those ?friends? who manipulate, deceive and exploit our community, I will serve as a reminder of the consequences we all pay when allegiance to political careers takes higher priority than allegiance to America?s promise.



Lt. Dan Choi

US Army, Discharged under DADT


View Article  The Lesbian Movie

Last night, Ledcat and I caught the opening of "The Kids Are Allright," the film about the kids of a lesbian couple seeking out their sperm donor.  The movie was well made and much more about relationships with this one happening to be lesbian, than a lesbian movie.  Annette Benning and Julianne Moore star and how cool to have two high profile actresses take on these roles. 

Our experience at the theater was interesting as well.  The showing was at the Manor in Squirrel Hill, known for being a bit liberal. 30 minutes before showtime, the line snaked around the building.  Surprisingly, the movie was packed PACKED with heterosexual couples, skewing heavily above age 50.  I'm sure there were plenty of lesbians sprinkled in the crowd, but I was a little stunned that I didn't recognize a single LGBT face in the crowd.  As we left, I could say the same about the line for the next showing. 

I sure hope all these allie who turn out for movies that normalize us are turning out politically to advocate for us in real life, too.

View Article  Gay Bashing in Pittsburgh - We Need a Liaison

You may have heard by now of a recent incident where a local gay man was assaulted while waiting for a bus. The community responded with two rallies and a lot of discussion about interaction between the LGBT community and the police.

This is an age old debate that requires self-examination on both sides and that seems to be a break down point.  Many in the LGBT community have had negative experiences with the police and are disengaged b/c there's no trust. To be repeatedly told "call 911" or "file reports" when your personal experiences are traumatic is not getting anywhere.  Add in the near constant media reports of negative behavior by the police department when interacting with minority groups and you hit a wall. 

On the other hand, if there is no data and no information being fed to the police their hand are tied.  People in the general public have unrealistic expectations of 911 and responses to emergencies.  If the police aren't there in minutes, the assumption is that they didn't care.  So when they do arrive two hours later to investigate, folks are unwilling to cooperate.  That's a catch 22 and doesn't help anyone. 

How do you get around this? 

Progress has been made.  This year's Dyke March finally had adequate police protection, but it took five years and a lot of pressure.  Tied up in that was a sense of disenchantment by some event organizers that the police truly didn't care if particpants were safe ... the same dynamic. Yet I had conversations with more than one officer at the event that showed they are gay friendly and willing to engage far more than simply guarding their street corner. 

There are systemic solutions.  The Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee is one such option, but we have to be realistic about their ability to effect the sort of dialogue necessary to bring about change.  Frankly, I've attended a lot of meetings with commanders and even the Chief where we just get lectured about reporting, reporting, reporting and a protective nature toward their team (with regard to community violence).  There's been no acknowledgement of systemic homophobia within the police force so I don't hold out a lot of hope.  I also think the disconnect I described above is mirrored within our community along socioeconomic/class lines so those who get access to these meetings aren't the ones getting bashed. 

City Council is another resource.  We need to insist our allies on Council take up this rallying cry. Several years ago, Bill Peduto repeatedly reminded Council that LGBT issues were part of the federal consent decree under which the police force operated for several years (essentially oversight by the Department of Justice).  Yet, we rarely see LGBT issues put forth by CPRB or other citizen groups in an organized manner.  That would bring us back to the lack of organization in our community and the lack of data due to underreporting. 

My recommendation is that we push for an LGBT liaison in the police department. This person would be our point person to discuss concerns and positive outcomes.  This officer attends our meetings, large and small, to address the issues being raised -- training, tracking, how 911 works, etc.  This officer gets to know us from Gay Inc to the everday queer so s/he can carry our stories and experiences back to the entire Department of Public Safety.  This officer is not just chatting with the Mayor's allies, but reaching out to the entire community. Many of us have his/her phone number. You see what I mean?  Not a token person assigned to come to one meeting, but an officer who gets invested in our community and diligently works to earn our trust.

It is about a relationship between our community and the institution which leads to a better relationship with the individual officers.  That core relationship will generate the reporting necessary to tackle the crimes.  It will empower CPRB to tackle the situations where police response is not according to procedure.

We also need a leader to step forward to push for necessary dialogue within the community.  Pittsburgh does not have an organized LGBT grassroots presence.  We have anarchists and philanthropists.  We've lost touch with that piece of our history, a consequence of assimilation. 

Just my $.02. 

View Article  Grocery store for Beechview

I don't pay a lot of attention to Beechview even though my neighborhood of Manchester is connected to it through both our State House and State Senate districts.  So I didn't even realize they had no grocery store until this little missive from Senator Fontana arrived in my box ...

Fontana Says Beechview Grocery Store Negotiations Underway

Responding to inquiries from community residents, State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today said that negotiations are underway to bring a grocery store to the Beechview neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh, but cautioned that any premature discussions on the project could jeopardize a positive outcome of the ongoing talks.

?I am committed to securing a grocery for the neighborhood,? Fontana said. ?I just don?t feel that it is productive to speculate or make premature public announcements about any proposals. The community should, most definitely, have an opportunity to weigh in on any plans and I have pledged to make that opportunity available as soon as it can be arranged.?

Senator Fontana has been meeting with a potential grocer and representatives of the Urban Redevelopment Authority since before the Foodland on Broadway Avenue closed at the end of June. He characterized the meetings as positive and productive, but he and the other parties to the discussions are bound by a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from discussing details.

?Growing up in Beechview in the 1950s, there was always a grocery store serving the community,? said Fontana. ?Although that has just changed recently, I still believe a new grocer can flourish in Beechview. Recent studies have indicated that a grocery can be successful here and I also believe that the community will support efforts because the residents understand how vital a grocery is to anchor their community.?

Senator Fontana said that a tentative date in early August has been set for a community meeting where residents will have the opportunity to obtain more information and ask questions of the new grocer. That information will be forthcoming as soon as it is available.

I'm sure many of Pgh's neighborhoods are underserved by grocery stores.  I should stop complaining about the Northside Giant Eagle, eh? 

And I need to get to Beechview sometime soon.


View Article  Corbett facts wrong. Shocking!

Capitol Ideas debunks Corbett's ridiculous mocking of his working class citizens ....

Kevin Silva, a senior vice president with the Warrell Corporation of Camp Hill, Cumberland County, said the company had been told by one applicant for a machine operator's position that, after factoring in travel costs, that he could make more money while receiving unemployment benefits.

Silva told Capitolwire that he did not know where the applicant lived. The position pays between $11 and $15 an hour, plus benefits.

Silva said the company did hire 50 foreign college students for seasonal work, not full-time positions, as Corbett told the online news service last week.

He lied? This is precisely why we need to continue pushing for LGBT economic issues on a local level as well as statewide --- statewide does not look too promising.  I bang my head on the table when a die hard conservative friend tells me Onorato is the man. 


View Article  Oh, those witty tea partiers ...

From Infinonymous ....


Infinon reports it was papered over the next day.


View Article  Argentina first Latin American nation to approve marriage equality

Hurrah for Argentina.

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentina's Senate narrowly approved a law early on Thursday authorizing same-sex marriages, making Argentina the first country in Latin America to allow gay couples to wed.

But in a region where the separation of church and state is not always so clear, the law demonstrated a rare but increasing willingness by some Latin American nations to confront the church on fundamental issues, like Chile's legalization of divorce and Brazil's public distribution of contraceptives in recent years.

"There is no question that the law is unusual for a country that is not as secular as Western European democracies," said Javier Corrales, a political science professor at Amherst College. "There's a clear conflict with the church. Very seldom do we see presidents willing to fight the church so strongly on this particular issue in Latin America," even in countries led by left-leaning governments.

Argentina's new law will give gay people the same marital rights as heterosexuals, including adoption and inheritance rights, and reflects the broadening legal recognition of same-sex relationships across Latin America.

Look how far the Catholic school boys in Buenos Aires have come!
View Article  Smart Men are Sexy

Just read Slag Heap every day.  Not only does it make me nostalgic for the slap heap upon which I played as a child (now known as Century Square in West Mifflin), but it is probably the smartest blog in the region.  Well, Chris Briem is pretty damn close but I have to admit he intimidates me. 

Just do it. 



View Article  Township in Montgomery County begins equality process

Always good news to see grassroots efforts to push for equality. 

Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County is on the path toward establishing protected class status for the LGBT community.  You can find out more about this effort through their Facebook Page.

It really is hand to hand combat to win over the hearts and minds of elected officials.  That won't happen without our full participation in the struggle for equality.  Join the Facebook Page to get yourself educated and be humbled that Pittsburgh has a twenty year start, plus domestic partnership benefits for City employees and a domestic partner registry.  Progress can happen with dedication, careful planning and the unrelenting pressure to hold our electeds accountable for the equality they profess to support. 

Congrats to the folks in Lower Merion.  I'll be watching and hoping for the best.

View Article  Pam asks if the DNC will consider LGBT friendliness for convention?



Should this be a factor? What about in Pennsylvania?  Should we ask Jim Burn to take these factors in account?

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