Archive for November, 2011

UPDATE: Susquehanna Twp. Hopes to Adopt Anti-discrimination Law Dec. 8

November 11, 2011

Susquehanna Twp. resident Steve Dorko proposes anti-discrimination ordinance.

Susquehanna Twp. Commissioners last night (Nov. 10) moved to formally
“advertise” a non-discrimination ordinance initially proposed last July by township resident Steve Dorko. Advertising the ordinance is the next required procedural step in order for commissioners to formally vote on adopting the measure Dec. 8., 7:30 p.m.

Dorko now calls on all interested parties to contact Susquehanna Twp. Commissioners to express their support of the measure.

At last night’s regular commissioner meeting, Dorko and about 15 supporters of the measure, and Equality PA’s Ted Martin, spoke in favor of the measure.

In the ordinance, Dauphin County’s Susquehanna Township bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and discrimination based on genetic information, as explained to Central Voice by board of commissioners president Diane Bowman.

Upon initially proposing the ordinance, Dorko cited inaction by the Pa. General Assembly in enacting statewide anti-discrimination protections, even though 22 municipalities in the state already have such protections. Dorko now calls for interested parties to contact commissioners regarding the proposed ordinance.

“We need people who live, work, visit, or otherwise spend dollars in the township to contact Susquehanna Twp. Commissioners,” Dorko said. To show support for such ordinances, Equality PA commissioned Susquehanna Polling and Research in February and learned that state residents support anti-discrimination legislation by more than a two to one margin, or 69% in favor to 24% opposed. Martin said Pennsylvanians “have shown overwhelming support for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.”

Twenty-three Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinance protections in place, although the state’s three largest cities – Altoona, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport – do not. Most recently, Springfield Township in Montgomery County passed a protective ordinance, preceded by Bethlehem.

The complete list includes: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie (County), Allegheny (County), Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster (City), Harrisburg, York, State College, Easton, Newton Borough, Swarthmore, Lower Merion Township, West Chester, New Hope, Landsdown, Doylestown, Conshohocken, Haverford, Springfield Township, and Montgomery County.

IF YOU COMMENT:
Comments on the proposed ordinance can be made by phone, email, or US mail.
One letter sent to “The Susquehanna Township Board of Commissioners” gets copied to all nine commissioners. Send to: Susquehanna Township Board of Commissioners, 1900 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg, PA 17110. If you’d like to make public comments Dec. 8, contact Gary Myers, Township Manager (gmyers@susquehannatwp.com, 909-9222) in advance of the meeting. More info: Steve Dorko, 717-657-2683; steve.dorko@gmail.com

Veteran’s Day Observed by Local LGBT Group

November 10, 2011

By Frank Pizzoli

Jene Newsome

Today members of the Armed Forces, both gay and straight, and Harrisburg’s Jene Newsome gathered in the Capital to acknowledge contributions made by all members of the service branches in observance of Veteran’s Day.

The event was organized by the Central PA LGBT Aging Network (CPLAN), affiliated with The LGBT Community Center and whose mission is to promote a positive and healthy environment for lgbt elderly, many of whom served in the military. Equality PA’s executive director Ted Martin served as master of ceremonies.

Newsome had been discharged in February 2010 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but has since been reinstated. At the time, she told Central Voice “I’ve always played by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rules, all nine years of my Air Force service. There was no reason for the police to inform the military about my personal life,” referring to the fact that a legal issue with her partner lead police to their home where they observed, through a window, the couple’s marriage license.

Coincidentally, the US Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which redefined marriage for federal purposes to exclude same-sex unions that are valid under state law. Martin noted in his remarks that although DADT has been repealed, DOMA stands in glaring contradiction with the intent of DADT. For example, although DADT’s repeal allows Newsome back into the armed services, there are, as of yet, no ways for her marriage to be recognized on par with heterosexual couples.

When her discharge troubles began, Newsome’s service friends and family “were right there for me,” she said. “They were accepting of my engagement and commitment ceremony,” she said.

Acceptance has been a challenge for Danielle Finnegan, a member of the region’s transgender community, served for 46 years in the service. She is also active with TransCentralPA, an organization that promotes education and understanding on transgender issues. Finnegan spoke with emotion about her near half century of service. “Transgender individuals have always served in the Armed Forces,” she said.

A 20-year veteran, Capt. Esteban Diaz, who served 20 years in the Air Force, including service in Dessert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom, told Central Voice “I know the military is more than capable of implementing DADT repeal and all that my mean to service members.” He noted that military service is purely merit based and now “gay people can judged on merit” not sexuality.

CPLAN is mounting a monthly slate of events and activities to bring increased awareness around lgbt senior issues. Temple MSW candidate Donald Anklam has recently been spearheading the CPLAN effort. He is known to the region from his recent role as Central PA Pride Festival’s vice-president and fundraising chair.

“We’re planning something monthly for the community and actively working with organizations to raise awareness around lgbt issues,” Anklam said. He is using a two-pronged approach: Real events for real people and real “product” oriented services so that, for example, nursing homes and senior agencies can best implement inclusive policies called for in upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“By 2014, health care reform measures will be looking at ways organizations are responsive to lgbt needs,” Anklam pointed out. LGBT needs are not special needs by any means Anklam stresses. “Asking that lgbt people be treated with dignity and respect isn’t a special request.”

LGBT Soldiers to be Honored Nov. 10

November 1, 2011

LGBT veterans to be honored Nov. 10 at Harrisburg Capital's Soldiers Grove on Commonwealth Ave.

The Central PA LGBT Aging Network will honor LGBT veterans Nov. 10, 11 a.m. to noon, at the State Capital Complex in Soldiers Grove. Soldiers Grove is located behind the PA State Capital Building and across from Commonwealth Avenue. Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA, will serve as master of ceremonies. He will speak on the history of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and how the Defense of Marriage Act conflicts with housing and other veterans’ benefits. Several veterans will also shared their experiences with military service. Attendees are encouraged to make legislative visits to advocate for fair and equal treatment of all veterans.