Archive for May, 2011

Easton Passes Same Sex Partner Benefits

May 31, 2011

A standing ovation concluded a recent vote by Easton City Council as they unanimously endorsed legislation providing equal benefits to same sex partners of City staff.

The 5th such ordinance in the state was sponsored by Council member Mike Fleck. During the previous weeks of public comment period no one spoke against the ordinance which takes effect on January 1, 2012. Other Pennsylvania cities that offer same-sex partner benefits include Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Diversity Network’s Adrian Shanker and Liz Bradbury worked with Fleck for 18 months to prepare the legislation and garner support. Shanker stated, “I am so pleased by the unanimous and bipartisan support for relationship recognition for same sex couples in Easton. Easton now joins the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies in providing the best human resource policies for employees.”

Bradbury, who also worked in 2002 to pass Easton’s non-discrimination law, commented, “Easton has come a long way, and I am thrilled that I can recommend it as a progressive place to live or work for the lgbt community.”

Fleck introduced this ordinance because he said “[he] was elected to represent all the citizens of the West Ward, many of whom are lgbt and want to know that their City treats their community as equals.” Easton’s openly gay city council member El Warner said, “I am very proud of my colleagues on council for coming together to pass this important civil rights bill. The time for it is now.”

The legislation is strongly supported by Mayor Sal Panto who is expected to sign it June 6.

Info: http://www.PADiversity.org

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Bethlehem Ordinance Passes First Reading

May 19, 2011

More than 70 community members were on hand for Bethlehem City Council’s four-hour meeting in support of the proposed Human Relations Ordinance, which if passed, would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment of public accommodations in the City of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is currently the largest city in the state lacking such a law, coalition organizers said.

The ordinance is supported by a broad coalition of more than 100 labor, faith, business, arts, and civil rights organizations, most notably including the AARP, Lehigh University, Lehigh Valley Labor Council, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Lehigh Valley.

Adrian Shanker, campaign organizer to build support for the ordinance, commented “broad support for legislation occurs when everyone knows what is right – and when it comes to ending discrimination, rational people know that it is the right thing to do.”

The ordinance was introduced by Mayor John Callahan in September and is sponsored by Councilpersons Karen Dolan and Eric Evans, and it passed unanimously through the Human Resources and Environment Committee in April.

The first public reading focused largely on the 18 amendments being considered, many non-controversial; however, there was much debate regarding the religious exemption to the law. Andy Hoover, legislative director of the PA-ACLU and Stephen Glassman, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission chair, were on hand to provide testimony. Hoover stated that “there is a strong need for a religious exemption, but the exemption should be a balance between religious freedom and civil rights.” Council members voted against fixing the religious exemption by a 4-3 vote.

Liz Bradbury, Pennsylvania Diversity Network, is “cautiously optimistic” that council will make the needed changes at the second reading. “There are minor changes we need to make, but I am pleased that the entire council agrees with the intent of the legislation, which is that people should not be discriminated against.”

Recent statewide polling commissioned by EqualityPA indicates sustained and strong support for non-discrimination laws protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Executive director, Ted Martin, said “the support for this is so strong because most people know what is right and what is wrong, and they know discrimination is simply wrong.”

Pennsylvania Diversity Network led the campaign to pass this legislation in Allentown, Easton, and Reading as well. Liz Bradbury, executive director, is “hopeful that [she] can soon recommend Bethlehem as a safe place to live, work or visit for everyone.”

The legislation is expected to be signed by Mayor Callahan. Council has scheduled a final vote for June 7.

Pennsylvania Diversity Network is the Lehigh Valley-based LGBT advocacy organization, and is the largest membership-driven LGBT organization in the Commonwealth of PA. http://www.PADiversity.org

Black and White Party Smashing Success!

May 16, 2011

This round Central Voice wanted to celebrate the “party makers,” the dozens of talented community theatre people, choreographers, stage crews, silent auctioneers, and security, who volunteer countless hours perfecting an event that consistently dazzles attendees. The party is seven hours in total length, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. The all volunteer board and its volunteers spend more than 1 month planning and preparing for each hour of the party.
La Dolce Vita!

Alder Health Services Wellness Day Gathers Community

May 16, 2011

This year Alder Health Services’ (formerly AIDS Community Alliance) annual AIDS Walk, morphed into a 5K Run, a Walk, and a Drag Race. The event reflects the agency’s expansion to now include primary health care for the lgbt community, available July 5, and other underserved groups of people.

News Round Up – Easton, Pa., Delaware, DADT, Uganda

May 12, 2011

Easton City Council Advances Domestic Partner Benefits
Easton City Council last night advanced their proposed ordinance to provide domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners of City staff members. The proposal has been reviewed in committee since April and is now being considered by the full council with a final vote expected on May 25.

If passed, Easton will join Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Lancaster in providing partner benefits to same sex couples. “Easton is moving forward to protect families of its Gay and Lesbian employees who risk their lives for the safety of its citizens” says Liz Bradbury, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Diversity Network.

The ordinance, introduced by Councilman Michael Fleck, has bipartisan support and is expected to pass unanimously according to Adrian Shanker, Vice President of Pennsylvania Diversity Network, who has worked to build support for the ordinance. “It is clear that in 2011, this is not a Democrat issue, this is a human issue, and I am pleased to see strong support for this important proposal from Democrats and Republicans alike.”

Delaware Governor Signs Civil Union Legislation
Saying “In Delaware – justice and equality move one way – and that is forward,” Gov. Jack Markell signed landmark legislation last evening. His action makes Delaware one of only a handful of states to allow same-sex civil unions and fully recognize same-sex relationships.

Couple who enter into a civil union will enjoy the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses.

“This bill is about a new energy and excitement,” said Markell. “The greater good is served when we speak out and fight hard when we see that bias, prejudice or even outdated laws attempt to lessen any one of us.”

“Tonight is a wonderful night for lgbt equality in Delaware,” said Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware and host of the night’s festivities.” Rep. Melanie L. George, lead sponsor in the House, she believes “with every fiber of my being that this is the right thing to do.”

Also under the bill, Delaware would recognize legal relationships that same-sex couples enter into in another jurisdiction – whether it is a civil union or marriage – and treat the relationship as a civil union.

DADT Snag?
Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA) wants to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to potentially delay certification of open service by gay and lesbian members of the United States military.

“There is no appetite for the Hunter amendment, which would only distract from the comprehensive and on-going repeal implementation process,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.

Also, the Department of the Navy’s reversed it’s previous decision of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in Navy facilities located in states in which same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

“At a time when the economy still needs attention, Osama Bin Laden was just killed, and revolution and conflict continue to rage across a fragile Middle East, having policy makers spend valuable and limited time on whether a few gay couples may or may not use a Navy facility for a private ceremony at some point in the future is just plain silly,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former Army Interrogator who was discharged under DADT.

Is Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” Killed?

The Associated Press is reporting that Ugandan Parliamentarians have scrapped plans to debate the so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” after an international outcry. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had threatened to cut off aid to the East African country, while members of GetEQUAL protested outside the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also criticized the measure that had once called for the death penalty for anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sex acts.

“If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. “Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.”

Local Stonewall Democrats Announce Endorsements

May 11, 2011

Local Stonewall Democrats have announced their endorsements for the May 17, Primary election.

County Commissioner Candidates
Michael Fedor, Cumberland County
votefedor.com
Eric Papenfuse, Dauphin County
ericpapenfuse.com
Bruce J. Simpson, Luzerne County Council
simpsonforcouncil.org

County Row Candidates
Shamaine Daniels, Dauphin County Clerk of Courts
shamainedaniels.com
Eboni E. Bryant, Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds
Rogette Harris, Dauphin County Register of Wills
and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court
rogetteharris.net
Phil Zulli, Dauphin County District Attorney
Dave I. Kaiser, Lancaster County Sheriff

City Council Candidates*
Brad Koplinski, Harrisburg
bradkoplinski.com
Susan Brown-Wilson, Harrisburg
Carol Hill-Evans, York
yorkcity.org/carol-hill-evans
* The CRSD Executive Board found that Harrisburg City Council Candidates Camille Erice, Sandra R. Reid, and Pat Stringer met the criteria for CRSD endorsement, but they did not receive a majority vote from the full membership.

City Treasurer Candidates**
John Campbell, Harrisburg
friendsofjohncampbell.com
** The CRSD Executive Board found that Harrisburg City Treasurer Candidate Steven M. Ketterer met the criteria for CRSD endorsement, but he did not receive a majority vote from the full membership.

Township Commissioner Candidates
Jody L. Rebarchak, Susquehanna Township, 1st Ward
Mona Johnson, Susquehanna Township, 3rd Ward
Peter Trufahnestock, Susquehanna Township, 7th Ward

State Senate 2012 Election
Rob Teplitz, PA-15: Dauphin/York Counties

Every Second Shines in Inis Nua’s Dublin by Lamplight

May 6, 2011

by Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent

What do you get when you cross Commedia dell’arte stylizations with Irish story-telling with Kabuki make-up? One of the best productions of the Philadelphia theater season: Inis Nua’s Dublin by Lamplight.


Set in 1904, the socio-political play is a fictionalized interweaving of the foundation of the Irish National Theatre, the struggle for an independent Ireland, and the visit of the King of England to Dublin. With a subplot of unrequited love, the complex story is presented through a unique fusion of dialogue, direct address narration, song, slapstick, mime, piano accompaniment, and a play-within-a-play.

Under the seamless direction of Tom Reing, the mix is precise and utterly enthralling. The focus here is on the confluence of the visual and performing arts—on those elements needed to take a play from page to stage, from the original text to the aural and visual delights that define great theater, while still maintaining the beauty and soul of the written language. Dublin by Lamplight excels on all counts.

Not a second is wasted in the fast-paced production, in which six actors play forty characters. Based on its premier at Dublin’s Corn Exchange, human expressiveness is at the heart of the story and the staging. According to Reing, four universal emotions–happiness, sadness, anger, and fear–provide the foundation for the performers. They expertly employ postures, gestures, and facial expressions, given emphasis by Maggie Baker’s colorful costumes and white-face make-up, to convey a clear message about what they’re feeling and how we should respond.

Through the players’ sharp head turns, the audience’s attention is directed to the focal point of the action in commedia dell’arte style. Using a bare stage, with only a single chair and valise, the viewer envisions the imaginary sets and props implied by the actors through mime, without a moment of disbelief. Charlie DelMarcelle provides a tour-de-force of physical theater with his Chaplinesque agility as the national theatre’s co-founder Willy. Megan Bellwoar offers a powerful performance as the actress/activist Eva, while Mike Dees as Martyn masters both the accent and the ego of the Irish actor he portrays with comic foppishness. Jared Michael Delaney is menacing as Frank, who abandons his pregnant girlfriend “to act for Ireland,” and Kevin Meehan is heartbreaking as the jilted suitor Jimmy, whose plight elicited sympathetic sighs from the captivated audience at the performance I attended.

From the witty opening curtain speech (delivered in character by the entire ensemble) to the heart-wrenching finale (featuring rising star Sarah Van Auken), the cast is uniformly superb, maintaining a balance between humor and pathos, between grand historic themes and intimate personal stories. If you love great theater, don’t miss this!

Part of the Philadelphia Irish Theatre Festival, Dublin by Lamplight runs through May 14, at Broad Street Ministry, 315 South Broad Street; for tickets, affordably priced at $20-25, call 215.454.9776, or visit the company’s website at www.inisnuatheatre.org.

History Lesson: Marriage or Civil Unions?

May 5, 2011

http://www.metroweekly.com/

Metro Weekly writer Chris Geidner in Part 1 of a series covers the history of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) given recent developments, including the Obama administration’s decision not to defend DOMA in court and the House defense and legal challenges from advocacy groups. But no one has investigated the underpinnings of the law and how we got here.

Parade Off, Festival On

May 3, 2011

Pride Festival of Central Pa. Makes Tough Decision

“We had some tough decisions to make,” said Brad Martin, first vice president, Pride Festival of Central Pa. The group has announced that the parade portion of the annual festival will not be held for 2011.

Last year was the fifth anniversary of the parade. This year’s festival is the festival’s 20th anniversary. A statement said that with the event’s “deadline approaching fast”, the board of directors “had to make one of the hardest decisions this year” including canceling the Parade.

The decision did not come easy.

“We have been discussing the parade since August when we began talking about this year’s festival. After several discussions with LGBTQI and local community leaders we came to the harsh reality that we would not be able to put on the parade this year,” Martin’s statement said.

Two major factors led to cancellation.

The first factor, Martin’s statement indicated, was that as of April 24, “we have no idea how much the parade and festival will cost us.” The all volunteer organization has been continuously calling Harrisburg City’s Parks & Recreation Department in order to seek pricing for this year’s events.

“The only answer we get is that City Council has not set the fees this year but we have been assured that they will double if not quadruple from last year’s fees,” Martin’s statement said. 2010 fees doubled from the previous year. The city’s parks and recreation director resigned last week, effective later this month.

The second factor considered by the all-volunteer organization in cancelling the parade was lack of community involvement.

Last year the organization had an 11 member board. This round they started with five members, now six. “We have had little community assistance when it comes to putting the festival together. Martin’s statement said the event needs “at least 100 people to run gates, set up the grounds, maintenance, organizational duties, putting the parade together, and handling entertainment.” Martin laments that “Most of the community thinks that festival is done overnight, but it is a full year process. There was no way with six people that we could have put on both a parade and a festival.”

Martin told Central Voice that the organization expects to have what information it needs in a matter of days and that “the festival is a go, without a parade.”

Readers interested in assisting with the 20th anniversary festival may contact info@prideofcentralpa.org; 717-801-1830.