Pittsburgh LGBT Equality Town Hall Meeting

28 Jan

Andy Hoover and Ted Martin Courtesy of Equality PA

Last night at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church,  Equality Pennsylvania in partnership with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, conducted a town hall style meeting addressing LGBT rights in Pennsylvania.

The point of the meeting was to get the conversation started about LGBT rights. This theme would be discussed throughout the night, and further they discussed the need that supporters let it be known that they support the LGBT community to relevant political forces.  The LGBT community lost a number of pro-LGBT candidates in last fall’s election, and now have to deal with a rough political climate which offers no guaranteed rights.  Andy Hoover, the Legislative Director, at the ACLU-PA and Ted Martin a spokesman for Equality PA  facilitated the discussion.

They started off by letting the crowd know that Pennsylvania is one of 30 states that doesn’t have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and they would work hard to keep it that way.  Ted Martin of Equality PA, wearing an argyle sweater, emphasized that protections against sexual orientation discrimination, while not necessarily a partisan issue, tends to find little support from republicans.  He went on to say, “We need to keep them dealing with the economy and stay away from these ‘controversial’ social issues.  Strategic fracturing of the Republican caucus is important.”

LGBT Townhall Meeting Courtesy of Equality Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh passed a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace and housing nearly twenty years ago and Allegheny County passed a similar ban just a couple of years ag0, in 2009.  The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s website describes the situation for the LGBT community:

No federal law prevents a person from being fired or refused a job on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the nation’s largest employer – the U.S. military – openly discriminates against gays and lesbians. Twenty-nine states (including Pennsylvania) also lack employment protections based on sexual orientation and 37 states do not protect transgendered people. Although 15 local governments in Pennsylvania have local ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people, approximately 73% of the state’s population remains unprotected.

State representative Dan Frankel, in 2009, proposed HB 300, which would have extended the “right to freedom from

Dan Frankel Courtesy of Equality Pennsylvania

discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation; defining “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression”; and further providing for unlawful discriminatory practices” to all Pennsylvanian’s.  HB 300 failed to gain the support of the legislature and with the new wave of conservative representatives, it seems unlikely that the issue will be raised again for some time.

At the meeting Representative Frankel went on to say that LGBT discrimination is “the last bastion of legalized discrimination…but there is a lack of intensity within the LGBT community.”

Andy Hoover, the ACLU-PA’s legislative director encouraged the crowd to have conversations with their legislators.  He went on to say that constituents need to build relationships with their legislators and let them know that supporters of the LGBT community are in their districts.

Dan Frankel summarized that a majority of his colleagues in the Pennsylvania House claim that they do not even know, or believe that they  have any LGBT constituents in their districts.  This kind of attitude has become enormously frustrating for Frankel, and he finished up by exclaiming, “it is time we finally bring an end to second class citizenship.”

These are the issues Pittsburgh.  Let’s have a civil conversation.

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