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View Article  Update on pro-equality legislation in Pennsylvania

State Representive Cohen has introduced a measure that would expand existing law to recognize civil unions.   HB708 has several familiar cosponsors, including Dan Frankel, Jake Wheatley, Chelsa Wagner, Dom Costa, Paul Costa, Mark Gergely.  41 sponsors in total. This legislation has been referred to the Judiciary Committee as of February 12, 2011. Several cosponsors sit in the Judiciary Committee.

State Senator Daylin Leach introduced a similarly timed bill to extend marriage to same sex couples.  SB 461 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 9, 2011. More on why Senator is ardent on this issue.

In addition, State Representative Josh Shapiro is poised to introduce legislation which would amend the Hate Crimes statute to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

Also, Representative Dan Frankel from right here in Pittsburgh plans to reintroduce legislation that expands protected class to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  This would provide protectsion in housing, public accomadation and in the workplace. 

Interesting situation to have 4 critical pieces of legislation in a state controlled by Republicans.  I'm sure there's a strategy.  I'll keep you informed on any momentum these pick up as well as the potential reintroduction of marriage discrimination legislation to put a DOMA referendum before the voters. 


View Article  WPTS launches "Gay Agenda" radio program

From Thursday's Post-Gazette comes word of a new LGBTQ radio program called "The Gay Agenda"

The idea behind "The Gay Agenda," which airs on FM 92.1 from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, is to discuss issues of concern to people in the gay community of greater Pittsburgh. The show began in January, and has included visits from people in the local gay community and discussions about crimes against gays and other topics.

Mr. Elko said he is involved with the project partly because of his commitment to social and community betterment.

"I feel an obligation to shed light on GLBT issues. ... Where there's ignorance, there's potential for fear," he said, noting that there is a higher suicide rate among young gays than among their straight peers

I urge you to read the story to see why the co-hosts signed on for this volunteer project.  Kudos to Pitt to bringing a pro-LGBTQ show back to the airwaves.


View Article  The PG's Reg Henry weighs in on DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act took another blow this when the Department of Justice (part of the Executive Branch) anounced it will no longer defend DOMA in court.  Pittsburgh's own Reg Henry weighs in with a very pragmatic priece.

DOMA, on the other hand, is increasingly uncool, being social and religious prejudice written into law.

I am of the view that if you don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay person. Otherwise, shut up and mind your own business.

However, isn't part of the president's job defending the indefensible? The president, under the Constitution, is supposed to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. It is the Supreme Court that is ultimately supposed to decide whether laws are constitutional.

Mostly I fear the return of the culture wars, the greatest excuse for avoiding the nation's real problems that was ever invented. I fear the prospect of Rick Santorum getting on his high horse and saying, "DOMA, he's making eyes at me!"

Still, to the extent it encourages a put-upon minority, I am glad.

The attorney general issued a statement, part of which I believe addresse Reg's concerns.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.   The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.   Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.   I fully concur with the President's determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.  

Furthermore, pursuant to the President ' s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

This is not a blanket denial of the appropriate role of the DOJ, but a clear statement that DOMA cases will be subjust to a higher level of scrutiny based on the Administration's interpreation of certain segments of the law.  My understanding is that the DOJ does not routinely defend every such case anyway, but we must be wary of greater state momentum to implement DOMA state by state.  This, of course, includes Pennsylvania. 

North Carolina is already pushing an constitutional amendment. 

Advocates have been warning for years that the increasing tangled web of equality will create a myriad of problem for everyone, including the IRS.  If marriage equality challenges to DOMA are subject to a heightened level of scrutiny, what impact will that have on the courts and the 10th Amendment?

It is complicated my friends, but imperative that we try to stay on top of these changes.  And even more imperative that we work hard to elect pro-LGBTQ officials locally and statewide.

View Article  Marriage Equality Update

Good news from Maryland.  

The fight for marriage equality in Maryland took a giant step forward tonight as the State Senate voted to approve a bill that extends legal marriage to same-sex couples.  The  legislation now heads to the House of Delegates for debate.  If it wins approval in the lower chamber, Maryland Gov. Martin O?Malley has vowed to sign the bill into law.

The bill?s openly gay co-author, Sen. Rich Madaleno, was a leading force in persuading his colleagues to support the measure.  Madaleno told Gay Politics last year that an increase in the number of openly gay and lesbian state legislators would have an impact on their straight colleagues.  ?Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion.  The tenor of the conversation changes.  It humanizes it,? Madaleno said.

Maryland has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers, six of whom serve in the House of Delegates.

Obviously good news, but also note the role that electing LGBTQ legislators on the state level played in changing the conversation. In Maryland, LGBTQ legislators "humanize" the rhetoric around the dialogue --- "gays" suddenly become your colleagues leading lives probably similar to the other electeds. 

While we don't have this dialogue on a state level, a positive step forward is electing local leaders who are openly gay and willing to have those significant conversation.  City Councilman Bruce Kraus, for example, changes the dynamic on the regional level simply by being at the table as a peer to those who might otherwise not really know an openly gay person.  Electeds don't have to preach, they simply need to be themselvces as they work on budget, parking and gas drilling issues. 

Meanwhile, Hawaii has embraced civil unions.  The legislation was signed by the Governor and goes into effect in January 2012.  This makes civil unions available to both same sex and opposite sex couples.  Read what Hawaii Equality has to report on how the legislation moved forward and what sort of impact this step toward marriage equality will have for resident of Hawaii.

Pennsylvania has legislation for both civil unions (House Bill 708) and mariage equality (SB461 ) on the table. It will be interesting to see how these bills progress through a very Republican controlled state government. 

View Article  14th Ward Independent Democratic Club sponsors Impact Video Contest

This looks interesting ...

GOT MESSAGE? Would you like to add to the progressive message and maybe win a few hundred bucks? The Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club is holding a contest for best visual - film, video, slide show, performance art, stand-up, whatever you can record - that inspires people to action toward progressive goals.

START NOW! (You can enter something you've already done, too

Sounds interesting. The winning pieces will be part of the Club's annual fundraiser.

For more details go here

View Article  "Fagbug" is back in the region

I first learned about this story at Pridefest a few years ago.  Erin Davies has her vehicle vandalized, including homophobic graffiti and the always original tag "Fag."  Erin took action and began driving the vehicle around the nation to educate people about homophobia.  Sure enough, she drove in the Pride March that year. 

Erin is back in the region, speaking in Fayette County and showing the documentary she made during her journey around the nation.  She speaks on Thursday, February 24, 2011.

Instead of letting the incident deter her, Davies decided to take her car on a 58-day road trip. Her goal was to capture people's reactions to her car on film and turn it into a documentary titled "Fagbug."

Davies' presentation will include a viewing of the documentary and the telling of the story of her transformation from hate crime victim to hate crime activist. People will also have the opportunity to see the "Fagbug" automobile at the campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I love that she claims the title activist, too. 


View Article  Santorum and "santorum" ... the devil is in the Google analytics

Dan Savage is incredibly naughty and wonderful in the same breath.  Thanks to his creative and intrepid readers, the Savage definition of Santorum remains at the top of the Google search for Rick's name.  Rick's wikipedia entry is third. 


The Post-Gazette reported that Savage's readers have clicked away to put the santorum definition to the top of the search engine in light of Santorum's hope for a presidential bid.  Santorum's staffers tried to "do something" about it, but the Google does not lie.  So now there's the spin of Santorum being persecuted by homosexuals.

?The site?s completely gross. But I don?t think it?s a problem politically for Rick running for president. Quite the opposite,? he said. ?If you?re Rick Santorum and you?re making an argument that there?s certain people that wish you ill, there?s exhibit No. 1. You say: ?You want to see my battle scars? Google my name. You don?t think I?ve been in the trenches for years? I?ve got the scars to prove it.??

Fortunately, Santorum's polling does not impress.  However, I keep giggling when I reread the sentence "I've been in the trenches for years" with regard to the frothy, fecal matter reference.  Ask me not why it makes me laugh, but I just get all sorts of amusing photos of the "man on dog" variety running through my head, minus the poor dog. 

Ah, Google, we bow before your mighty algorithims. 


View Article  Stuff

Blogging has been a bit sparse of late.  Chalk it up to some time constraints, lack of inspiration due to information overload and other stuff.  Blah, blah, blah.

It is still tough when I sit down in front of a crisp, fresh post opportunity and draw a complete blank.  Stuff is happening ... stunning protests in Wisconsin, local rallying for women's rights and LGBTQ stuff all over the nation.

But I got nothing.  I could toss up some links of the "What we missed" variety, but I'm sure you are reading the national LGBTQ blogs.  Aren't you?  You should. 

Here's what is on my mind today

- Why is my cursor jumping around so much (I think it involves drivers and will require a large amount of time to repair)

- Will the anti-public union movement come to Pennsylvania?  Since many LGBTQ folks in the unions are closeted, what does that mean for them and for domestic partner benefits?

- Planned Parenthood gets defunded by the House of Representatives.  WTF?

- I'm going to do some volunteer work today which is a refreshing change. More on that later.

- I have scary medical tests on Tuesday.  Of course, I don't get results for 3-4 weeks so pray for me, okay? Nothing life threatening, but one of those "let's rule some stuff out" sort of tests. 

- Tomorrow I get to go to cool UU church, engage in a 90 minute discussion on philosophy and history and then get an organic facial.  Plus, there will be Ledcat's famous meatloaf for dinner.  Big day of awesome. 

Hope your weekend goes well.

View Article  Transphobia in local media

The Pittsburgh City Paper's Lauren Daley provides excellent coverage of a story on transphobia in the local media and the ensuing community response.

In short, WPXI covered the arrest of two female identified individuals who were allegedly engaged in prostitution.  Outrage arose over the station's bungling of gender and trans terminology during their story.

Online they allegedly advertised as women. In police reports, their genders are listed male, and they are referred to as transvestites. And one television news reporter referred to Nakala Jackson and Tamika Jones as "two men" who were "posing as women and operating as prostitutes."

Daley goes on to detail the WPXI coverage.

I first learned about this story from the Queer Events List an email community of 700+ individuals.  A few members who caught the broadcast quickly jumped online calling for a response from the community.  Several people, myself included, contacted the station.  I heard nothing back.  Others reported hostility when they called the news editor to complain. 

The thread throughout the discussion was the responsibility of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community to educate the media about these and related issues to ensure fair and accurate reporting.  In that spirit a group gathered at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center to do just that. One organizer, Rayden Sorock, sent out this planned approach a few days after the meeting.

1. Send around a petition for people to sign showing that members of the community will not stand for such ignorant coverage of trans and gender-variant people. We want to educate WPXI and other local media about the appropriate way to talk about transgender people.
2. Compile a list of reactions to the news story to send to WPXI. Please email me any submissions. They can be anonymous, but it would be most effective if you gave your name and affiliation if any.
3. Connect with other members of the community who want to work on creating a positive media image for trans people. For example a YouTube video campaign.
4. As a long term goal: to develop a relationship between the LGBT community of Pittsburgh and the police & Allegheny County Jail to ensure that LGBT people are treated with respect and remain safe from harm if they interact with the police or are arrested.

Viewer feedback to WPXI is a good idea, especially if the numbers are substantial AND a solution is proposed.  As of now, there is no central go-to place for a coordinated LGBTQ media response.  I get all sorts of requests for comment and I know there are a few other folks who are oft quoted, but it is more about being a contact/connection with certain media outlets than a coordinated effort.  This is a weakness in Pittsburgh's community and it would be a gap well filled by the GLCC should they have the resources to do so. 

The YouTube video campaign is intriguing and a creative solution.  The relationship with the jail is another positive goal that would address systemic change.  It is an issue that has arisen many times over the years I've been part of the community.  Perhaps a fresh perspective generated by a grassroots movement will spur action.

The group has a Facebook page. if you'd like to get involved.

Sorock also commented for the City Paper story

"This whole story is treated as a totally insensitive joke and is extremely offensive," says Rayden Sorock, a Lawrenceville resident and a fellow with the Initiative for Transgender Leadership at the Regional Internship Center of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Using terms like "transvestite" or "posing," Sorock says, "create the idea that someone's gender they present is a lie or only a transition."

The good that comes out of this story is the big picture thinking.  The women who were arrested have departed the scene, but their experience transcends the community.  If this group of motivated trans advocates can mobilize a systemic approach to the broader issue, they'll create a more respectful community for everyone.

That's a big "if." Last year's gay bashing incident in Bloomfield galvanized scores of folks (including moi) to turn out for a vigil near the scene of the alleged incident.  Folks struggled to control the message and conflicting reports on the incident soon leaked out, disillusioning both the allies of genuine gay bashing victims and the community at large. Details are still murky. What didn't happen was a meeting of those minds to sit down and talk about the realities of gay bashing in Pittsburgh.  Opportunity lost which is a reflection on the divides permeating the local LGBTQ community ... but you've heard me expound on that before. 

Both situations present the complications of more vulnerable members of our community enduring homophobia and transphobia.  The fact that these women are alleged prostitutes and/or the decisions of the Bloomfield folks on how to interact with the police only serve to highlight that the issues disproportionately impact folks who may be already marginalized even within our community. 

The grassroots response is heartening.  In Bloomfield, a group emerged to provide safety in numbers approach to reclaiming safe spaces in their neighborhoods. It isn't a 501c3 and has no website, but they do represent an approach to the problem as well as a potential voice at the table. 

Are those at the table ready to make room and open themselves to alternative points of view?  For the sake of women like Nakala Jackson,Tamika Jones and nameless other victims of discriminatory treatment, let's hope so. 

View Article  Rally Thursday to Defend Women's Lives

A message from longtime activist Jeanne Clark.

Dear Friends, (please excuse the potty mouth - I'm too mad to be polite)

 Legislation in both DC and Harrisburg is moving  that will put women's lives at risk. Cuts to all family planning funding. No abortion care in health insurance reform even if you pay it yourself. (And in South Dakota, they are considering making killing abortion doctors "justifiable homicide.")

 We must go Egyptian on this bastards and let them know we won't go back to those bad old days when women paid with their lives for their basic human rights.

 Rally on Thursday, February 17 at 4;30 p.m. at the Old Allegheny County Morgue, Bring coat hangers, lye, Drano -- all the "medical care" we had to use in the old days.

 We must make this issue so hot that these ass hats back down immediately.

 We've done it before when we stopped the Senate from sweeping Anita Hill's experience with Clarence Thomas under the rug, and made them reconvene the hearings. And in the next election, we replaced many of the bad guys -- Republican and Dem -- with strong women.

 The longer we let these guys go on, the stronger they will be.  JOIN ME ON THURSDAY AT 4:30 PM AT THE OLD ALLEGHENY COUNTY MORGUE

 Jeanne Clark

Strong language from a stalwart leader who has been a longtime defender of women (and men and children and humanity) in the face of increasing attacks from cowardly control-freaks who -- when you get down to it -- don't trust us to make decisions about our own bodies, our own lives.

I don't remember a time when women resorted to lye and coat hangers to end unwanted pregnancies, but it scares the hell out of me.  And it really pisses me off.  Get your hands and your minds out of my uterus and focus on the friggin economy. 

542 Fourth Ave. 

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