Archive for April, 2012

Obama Backs Bullying Bills

April 30, 2012

President Obama April 20, 2012 declared his support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation aimed at combating anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying and discrimination in our nation’s schools.

On right, Obama is shown sitting on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum, April 18, 2012.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is advocating for the passage of both these critical bills. Specifically, in January, at the organization’s “Creating Change Lobby Day,” hundreds of lgbt advocates met with their senators and urged them to pass these important pieces of legislation, according to the task force.

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: We thank President Obama for endorsing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act. The epidemic of bullying and discrimination in our nation’s schools is a tragedy and an outrage. No student should fear getting beaten up, harassed and tormented while simply trying to get an education. We have a responsibility to ensure all young people are protected from this pervasive bullying, discrimination and abuse. Parents, educators, policymakers — all of us — need to stand against this unacceptable behavior. The president did that today. We urge him to now help get these life-saving bills through Congress.

Primary Election Analysis: Openly-gay Candidates Win

April 25, 2012

Deitz, McEntee to Face Republican Incumbents
Sims Bumps Dem Incumbent

By Frank Pizzoli

Three openly-gay candidates achieved victory in the April 24 Primary Election.

Democratic candidates Chris Deitz and Kelly McEntee will face Republican incumbents in the Nov. 6 General Election for their bids to be seated in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Both ran without challengers from within their own party. Philadelphia’s Brian Sims, a Democrat, bumped incumbent state Rep. Babette Josephs.

15th Senate
In the hotly contested 15th Senate seat vacated by longtime incumbent State Sen. Jeff Piccola, Republican John McNally will face Democrat Rob Teplitz in the Nov. 6 General Election.

Democratic political observers talk excitedly about taking back a Senate seat traditionally held by Republicans. Republican stalwarts whisper quietly that Piccola’s role in the recent takeover of Harrisburg City may seriously dent fellow Republican McNally’s chances of holding onto the city which under siege from all sides in a festering fiscal crisis. The district is in Dauphin and York counties.

103rd House
Patty Kim won the Democratic primary vote for the 103rd state House seat vacated by longtime incumbent Democrat Rep. Ron Buxton. He too along the campaign trail had been criticized for playing a silent role in protecting the city’s interests as it faced takeover talk from various stakeholders.

Kim tallied 29% of the vote against a crowded field of four candidates. Coming in a close second was Roy Christ who branded himself an “urban redneck” during the campaign. Kim had received a nod in the Capital Region Stonewall Democrats Voter’s Guide. Christ had received the endorsement of statewide Equality PA, an LGBT organization.

Recount?
By midday after the election, Christ had released this statement to his email list: “This was a hard fought campaign and I thank all of those who voted for me and participated in yesterday’s election. We will be keeping all of our options open. It would be a disservice to the voters to not wait until the official results have come in.” The state’s official elections return web site was reporting Kim won, in unofficial results, by 45 votes.

Following political tradition in a city-based district comprised of a majority of Democrats, there was no Republican candidate running for the seat until, at the last minute, Bill Cluck, active in the spirited Harrisburg fiscal crisis imbroglio, decided to wage a write in campaign on the Republican side of the primary ledger to have his name placed on the ballot.

Last minute political machinations prompted Gloria Martin-Martin Roberts, herself a Democratic candidate for the seat against Kim who received 19% of the vote, to also conduct a write in attempt on the Republican side. At press time, a final tally of Republican write in votes for Cluck or Martin-Roberts had not been officially announced by election officials. Three hundred or more write in votes are needed to secure a place on the ballot. The district is located in Dauphin County.

During a panel discussion organized by Harrisburg Hope when asked if they would support same-sex marriage by openly-gay Harrisburg City Treasurer John Campbell, Martin-Roberts said, “I do not support” such measures. Christ prompted laughter from the crowd when he said, “If you don’t agree with same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex.” Kim said she thought all citizens should have the same civil rights in every way possible.

When Josh Appleman, representing the LGBT Community Center Coalition, asked the candidates if they would support anti-discrimination legislation regarding employment and other public accommodations, all four candidates agreed they would support such measures. “I’d be honored to support such legislation,” Kim said.

104th House
As expected, openly-gay Chris Deitz won the Democratic primary. He did not face a challenger from his own party. Dietz is a 2011 FAB award honoree for service to the region’s LGB T community and is a proponent of eco-tourism and government reformer.

Nov. 6 Deitz will face incumbent Republican State House member Sue Helm. She ran without her party’s endorsement against Jenna Lewis, who received the party’s endorsement. Helm gained 60.8% over Lewis’ 39.2%. Helm nearly lost her seat two years ago when she ran against activist Gene Stilp when she also ran with the Republican-party endorsement. The district is located in Dauphin County.

105th House
Openly-gay Kelly McEntee will face incumbent Republican Representative Ron Marsico. Neither candidate faced a challenger from within the ranks of their own party for the primary election.

McEntee is a native of Ohio and has been a resident of Pennsylvania since 2005 and Dauphin County since 2009. McEntee and her partner, Angela Dicks, live in Linglestown with their young adult sons. The district is located in Dauphin County.

182nd House
In the 182nd district Brian Sims challenged his old boss incumbent state Representative Babette Josephs. Sims had recently served as her campaign manager. The district is essentially a center city location described as the “gayest” state house district in the commonwealth. Sims carried the vote over Josephs with 51.6% against her 48.4%.
On the day of the election, Sims was named to The Advocate’s Forty Under 40 list.

Harrisburg’s John Campbell Named to The Advocate’s Forty Under 40 List

April 24, 2012

By Frank Pizzoli

Twenty-four-year-old John Campbell, Harrisburg’s elected City Treasurer, today was named to The Advocate’s list of Forty Under 40. He is executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association and is an economics major at Lebanon Valley College.

The piece notes Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson and her alleged homophobic comments earlier in her tenure. Campbell told The Advocate: “The question isn’t the mayor’s opinion on gays,” Campbell says. “It’s whether she’s competent.”

Campbell tells Central Voice “It’s a honor to be selected as on of The Advocate’s Forty Under 40.” He hopes that this honor will serve “as an inspiration to young LGBT people. As a generation that will be greatly affected by the decisions made today, we must remember that change only happens when we act, take charge, and commit ourselves to prosperity.”

In 2008 (Sept-Oct 2008), Central Voice wrote of that: “No one who knows him will be surprised if John Campbell someday becomes the nation’s first openly gay president.” In seventh grade, he told his mother that he wanted to be president. While it’s not unusual for kids that age to have dreams of high-profile careers, it is unusual for them to grow up never wavering from their first aspiration. To characterize Campbell as unusual would be an understatement.

A second Pennsylvanian, Brian Sims, 33, was also named to the list. Today (April 24, 2012) he is running against incumbent Phila. State Rep. Babette Jones for a seat in the state House of Representatives and was not immediately available for comment.

Pride Festival of Central PA Spring Fling Sat., April 21

April 18, 2012

Special Performance by Dutch Apple Dinner Theater

DJ Steve

Enjoy the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel

21st Annual

The Pride Festival of Central PA invites one and all to a delightful evening at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel for the 3rd Annual Spring Fling Sat., April 21, 7 p.m. The event benefits this year’s Pride Festival, an all volunteer effort.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door and available at – http://www.mycommunitytickets.net/common/eventDetail.aspx?id=14379

Ballroom & Terrace
The fun begins at 7 p.m. in the striking Pennsylvania Ballroom and Outdoor Terrace at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel. Guests will be entertained by the stylings of popular DJ Steve and a special performance by the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater.

Culinary Delights
Guest will enjoy delectable culinary delights specially prepared just for attendees by hotel chefs.

Artists & Auction
During the event, guests can enjoy the marvelous works of local area artists. Bid on art works and other incredible items during the Silent Auction.

All proceeds from this event support the Pride Festival of Central PA whose mission to increase positive visibility and a safe environment for the region’s LGBT and Straight Allies in the community. “Pride presents the perfect opportunity to express and celebrate diverse perspectives that emphasize the acceptance of all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” says Brad Martin, Pride president.

This year’s event is Fri., July 27, Sat., July 28, and Sun., July 29.

Phila.’s Mauckingbird Theatre Co Presents Gay History with “The Temperamentals”

April 13, 2012

John Jarboe as Rudi Gernreich and Matt Tallman as Harry Hay in Mauckingbird’s The Tempermentals. Photo by Ian Paul Guzzone.

by Debra Miller
Philadelphia Arts & Culture Correspondent

Upholding its mission as the first Philadelphia theater company dedicated to gay-themed programming, Mauckingbird’s current production considers a brief but seminal period in the history of LGBT rights in our country. Playwright Jon Marans traces the foundation of The Mattachine Society from 1950-53, within the context of the short-lived relationship between two of its co-founders–gay activist and dedicated Communist Harry Hay (who later co-founded the Radical Faeries); and fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (creator of both the topless swimsuit and the thong).

Titled after the code-name that gay men used to refer to themselves during the hysteria of McCarthyism in the 1950s, The Temperamentals recreates the culture of fear, oppression, and secrecy that inspired Hay to action. He, along with comrades Chuck Rowland, Bob Hull, Dale Jennings, and Gernreich (who financially supported the cause but never revealed his identity), named their organization The Mattachine Society after a French medieval itinerant masque troupe. Composed of unmarried townsmen who never appeared in public unmasked, their performances consisted of protests against oppression and parodies of the ruling class, with men in drag playing the female roles. Hay saw in them a parallel to gay men of the 1950s, as a masked minority, forced to remain anonymous in the face of persecution and intolerance, and in need of a courageous voice to champion a call for freedom and equality.

Starring Matt Tallman as Hay, John Jarboe as Gernreich, and featuring Mike Dees, Doug Greene, and Carl Granieri as Rowland, Hull, and Jennings, The Temperamentals runs through April 29, 2012, in the Skybox at the Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom Street, 3rd floor, Philadelphia. On Sunday, April 15, from 6:30-8:30 (following the 2 pm matinee performance), the company hosts it Second Annual Mr. Mauckingbird Pageant, including cocktails, snacks, photos, auction items, and, of course, the fabulous contestants! For more information and tickets, call 215.923.8909, or see http://www.mauckingbird.org.

Abington Township 28th Municipality to

April 13, 2012

April 12 Abington Township, Montgomery County became the state’s 28th municipality to adopt a non-discrimination policy regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

The measure’s passage reflects an intense collaborative effort by LGBT members of the community, allied groups, and Equality Pennsylvania (EQPA).

Pennsylvania’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have no protection in state law against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations if it is based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

“With little action to change this sad fact being taken in Harrisburg, many communities have turned to EQPA for help in passing local ordinances to address this inequity,” says EQPA Executive Director Ted Martin.

“How Abington Township’s non-discrimination ordinance came to be is a nearly identical story to what has happened in other communities we have worked with on this issue,” Martin explained.

An essential part of EQPA’s work focuses on educating the public on the lives of the state’s gay citizens. “When people – LGBT and allies alike – learn that it is still perfectly legal in Pennsylvania to fire someone for being gay or deny them a public accommodation like a hotel room or evict them from their apartment, they are generally pretty appalled,” Martin said.

That’s what happened in Abington Township. “Community members learned this information and they reached out to us for help to change it. They knew that we could provide resources and information, and with the General Assembly largely ignoring the issue, that our strategy to pass local ordinances was their best option to make real change for the better,” Martin said.

Martin says his organization is “getting more calls on this subject than you can imagine.” In the past two years, EQPA has helped to pass ordinances in Doylestown Borough; Lower Merion Township; Haverford Township; The City of Bethlehem; Springfield Township; Newtown Borough; Whitemarsh Township, Jenkintown Borough, Susquehanna Township.

“We are really just doing what state legislators have told us to do all along on non-discrimination,” Martin commented. “Pass local ordinances and that will build grassroots pressure on us to act they say. So we have made passing ordinances a top priority.”

Equality Pennsylvania President, Adrian Shanker, who led the effort to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in the City of Bethlehem in 2011, attributes the growing interest in ordinances to the public being out in front of their elected officials on this issue.

“The reality is that Pennsylvanians support basic non-discrimination laws that protect the LGBT community. Unfortunately, our state legislature is still shirking their responsibility to protect all their citizens from discrimination,” Shanker noted.

In 2011 EQPA released polling showing strong statewide support for passing LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination legislation. The poll showed that by a more than 2:1 margin (or 69% to 24%), Pennsylvanians support passage of legislation banning discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression on matters dealing with the workplace, public housing and public accommodations; 6% of voters said they are undecided.

“The polling results show not only the basic fairness of Pennsylvanians, but their comfort with LGBT people having basic protections, and their consistency as well,” Shanker says.

EPQA has released the third poll in a row they commissioned showing very strong support for this type of legislation. “In 2003, the results were 67% in favor, in 2007 it was 70% in favor and today the number is 69%. Not only have Pennsylvanians never wavered in their view that this discrimination is wrong, they have stayed fiercely loyal to that point. If public opinion was corporate brand loyalty, LGBT equality would be a Fortune 500. Knowing how people really feel on the subject empowers us to continue pressing our legislators about the need for a statewide law,” Shanker said.

Equality Pennsylvania is the statewide voice for LGBT Equality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and works collaboratively to establish a comprehensive network of individuals and organizations united in securing equal rights for the LGBT community.

Info: http://www.equalitypa.org.

Harrisburg Hope Responds to Receiver’s Resignation

April 3, 2012

Springtime for Harrisburg
By Alan Kennedy-Shaffer
Founder, Harrisburg Hope

Cartoon below

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Marcellus famously observed in “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare’s political commentary is as timeless as it is haunting. In Shakespeare’s tale, Political leaders shake hands, smile for the cameras, kiss babies, and then act out of spite when few are watching. Women and men of high ideals are condemned for telling the truth. Harrisburg is no exception.

The resignation of receiver David Unkovic on March 31 was a major setback to the city’s recovery process. Unkovic was listening to the community. A rare, honest broker, Unkovic won over many residents who were cynical and wary of him. He won us over by being honest and earnestly seeking citizen input. He was willing to meet with residents, community groups and elected officials in order to bring people together — something Harrisburg desperately needs.

The first receiver in city history was also asking tough questions, and he was starting to get answers. Influenced by the unfinished forensic audit of the incinerator debt, Unkovic began naming names — elected officials, legislators, lobbyists. He expressed his frustration at the “corruption” behind what he called a “house of cards.” Then a judge ruled that a second receiver was needed. After Unkovic resigned, the prospect of bankruptcy became much greater.

It is now also going to be more difficult to fully investigate the causes of the debt crisis. In one of his last acts, Unkovic wrote to the United States Attorney and the Pennsylvania Attorney General to request that they investigate the questionable bond deals described in the forensic audit. It is high time for a full investigation to begin. City residents, officials, and business owners are waiting for accountability — criminal or civil — for Harrisburg’s “house of cards.”

Meanwhile, the incinerator debt continues to climb, with millions in interest accumulating annually. With the current debt topping $317,000,000, and only fifty thousand residents in the city, Harrisburg has the highest debt per person of any municipality in the country ($6,340 per person). Only the national debt per person — $49,879.47 — is higher. With limited assets, and a commuter tax and county sales tax off the table, Harrisburg has few options left. That is why bankruptcy is on the table.

The good news is that Harrisburg can recover, but only if residents, community groups, elected officials, and the city’s creditors rise to the occasion. The even better news is that there is a growing realization that Harrisburg does not rise and fall alone. As the capital city of the nation’s sixth largest state, and as the county seat, Harrisburg is the economic and political hub for a region with more than half a million people. So goes Harrisburg, so goes the region.

There is a regional spring taking root here — an awakening of not just city residents, but also those who live near the city, work in the city, and share in the collective offerings of the regional metropolis. An ironic sign of this awakening is a lawsuit filed in late February by the self-titled “Suburban Municipalities” of Lower Paxton Township and Authority, Steelton Borough and Authority, Susquehanna Township and Authority, Swatara Township and Authority, Paxtang Borough, and Pennbrook Borough. The municipalities argue Unkovic’s plan unlawfully forces them to support city operations through sewage fees, rather than funding only sewage services.

For the first time, the “Suburban Municipalities” teamed up to oppose the “direct, adverse and immediate impacts” of a recovery plan “wholly inadequate to alleviate the fiscal emergency of the City of Harrisburg.” Significantly, they recognized that the city’s problems are also theirs. Although city, township and borough officials often like to view their jurisdictions as entities unto themselves, it is becoming increasingly evident that Harrisburg’s incinerator debt crisis is so monumental that it has already begun to affect the townships and boroughs that ring the city. Even after the incinerator debt is erased, Harrisburg is likely to face structural deficits that will likely tempt city officials to again rob Peter to pay Paul so that essential services can continue.

Given the extent of Harrisburg’s financial “house of cards,” the sticker price of the incinerator debt, and the difficult task of finding new revenue sources for Harrisburg, there is no better time for the city and its municipal neighbors to act with civility toward each other. Regional challenges require regional solutions. Fortunately, the first step toward finding creative solutions is taking hold: The region’s municipalities are talking about the complexities of regionalization.

Harrisburg Hope remains committed to encouraging civility and empowering our community to ask the tough questions. We are not giving up, and neither should you. Getting Harrisburg out of debt is going to take concessions from creditors, sacrifices from residents, and a regional willingness to come together. There may be something rotten in Harrisburg, but there are also those willing to tell the truth. Right now, more than ever, Harrisburg needs all hands on deck.