Archive for March, 2013

PA State Representative to U.S. Senator: Endorse Marriage Equality

March 28, 2013

By Central Voice
Central to your life.

U.S Senator Robert Casey is feeling the heat to come out on lgbt marriage equality. He is one of only 10 Democrats in the U.S. Senate still opposed to same-sex marriage.

Within hours yesterday, Casey’s office received 10,000 calls and emails urging him to support same-sex marriage, according to a press release by Keystone Progress and MoveOn.org. Equality Pennsylvania also joined the effort to move the senator’s position with emails to its membership urging calls to Casey.

Joining the effort is openly-gay PA State Representative Brian Sims. The full text of his letter to Casey is below.

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila.

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila.

In 2012, Sims was elected as the Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 182nd (Phila.) legislative district. Facing no challenger in the general election, he became the state’s first openly LGBT state legislator.

Pressure mounts on Casey due to these developments:

– This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage.

– Pennsylvania has a version of DOMA passed in 1996 when Tom Ridge was governor. Ridge has since reversed his position as announced Feb. 28 by GOP operative Ken Mehlman and then reported out March 1 by digitaljournal.com’s Greta McClain, according to Michele Nix of Ridge’s office.

– A move by business to embrace equality as good for business. The new Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal, a Fortune 500 effort, supports marriage equality through members like Marriott Corporation, A|X Armani Exchange, Aetna Inc., Biogen Idec, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Diageo North America, eBay Inc., Electronic Arts, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group LLC, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Replacements, Ltd., Sun Life Financial U.S., and Thomson Reuters.

– Pennsylvania’s attitudes are changing, according to a February Franklin & Marshall College poll which found that on gay marriage, 52 percent of registered voters approve of same-sex marriage, while 41 percent oppose it.

– Although not statements of support for marriage equality, in related developments 30 municipalities across the state have anti-discrimination laws, many adopted in the last year.

The full text of Sims’ letter:
Good morning Senator Casey,
As you know, this week saw the two most important cases in LGBT civil rights history argued before the Supreme Court. These cases, even if not decided fully in favor of LGBT civil rights are still going to be the foundation for all equality legislation and litigation to follow, which will ultimately lead to full LGBT equality in the next decade. Today is the morning after.

I am writing to you this morning not as a friend, not as a constituent, nor as a former volunteer. While I am all of these things, I am also a State Representative in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and one whose rights as an openly gay man are being directly impacted by your silence, especially in the face of so much support from your colleagues.

Like countless Americans and millions of Pennsylvanians, I watched these last two days as my fundamental rights as an LGBT American have been at the front and center of the national debate. In fact, that’s exactly where we want them to be; in the public eye, at kitchen tables, at coffee counters, and in conference rooms from Scranton to Santa Fe.

The next few months before the decisions are announced mark the most critical time in LGBT civil rights history. These cases are our Dred Scott, our Loving v. Virginia, perhaps even our Brown v. Board of Education. To the delight of so many, the people of this great nation are standing up with voices stentorian to proclaim their support for equality in record numbers.

Senator Casey, seven years ago I joined hundreds of thousands of LGBT Pennsylvanians in support of your candidacy in an effort to remove Senator Rick Santorum, one of the most anti-LGBT legislators in modern history, from public office. We worked tirelessly and we celebrated your victory, even as many of us struggled to reconcile our support for you with our fundamental beliefs in women’s reproductive rights, beliefs which you do not share. We have believed since you were sworn in that when the time was right, when it really mattered, you would be there for equality. The time is right and we need you to be here.

But your voice is silent. And I am angry.

Senator, I know you. I know how we have interacted and I know that you have respect for me as a gay man. More importantly, I know that LGBT people surround you in virtually every area of your life, personal and professional. You have never had a shortage of interaction with the LGBT community and that is what makes it so confusing that you have not made up your mind on equality. Or have you?

Several weeks ago your colleague, Senator Portman, very eloquently announced his support for marriage equality after coming to terms with his gay son. The Senator actually said that he’d never given the issue much thought before being confronted with it at his kitchen table. Once confronted, he came to the conclusion that LGBT people like his son deserve to have their rights recognized. To be clear, Senator Portman is a national figure in a political party that has never supported LGBT civil rights; nor had he ever done so personally. Yet with those political obstacles, and that personal history, he was still able to come to the conclusion that equality was morally and politically necessary.

Even some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party are now more supportive of equality than you, based solely on their personal experiences with just a single LGBT family member. For lesser men than you Senator, with far less experience with LGBT Americans, it took only one gay person to make them speak out against the conventions of their parties and their faiths.

I know that you are a man of deep faith and that your faith guides many of your life’s decisions. I also know that faith itself evolves. Faith has been used by the opponents of virtually every civil rights battle in our history to impede progress and evade equality. Yet as each battle ended, we did not look back and say that the faith was wrong, just perhaps the faithful. Today, Catholic Americans support LGBT equality at greater levels than even the U.S. population as a whole.

Senator, the same people who voted for me, voted for you, and I am so excited to report that a vast majority of them now support LGBT equality. So too do a majority of your Democratic colleagues. In fact, as of this morning you are one of only nine Democrats in the Senate who does not support marriage equality!

You have had more opportunities, and come from more supportive communities than so many others who have voiced their support in these critical weeks. History, as well as your constituents, is demanding that you speak now on this issue and I hope that your conscience compels you to rise to the occasion.

Please, Senator, don’t wait any longer to take a stand. Show and voice your support for full equality for LGBT Americans today.

Sincerely,
Rep. Brian Sims
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
182nd Legislative District

Marriage Equality Rally Draws 200 to Harrisburg Federal Building

March 27, 2013

March 26 candle

Allentown, Lancaster Hold Vigils
By Central Voice

In a show of solidarity about 200 people gathered late this afternoon at Harrisburg City’s 3rd and Walnut Sts. Federal Court house to hold a vigil following the U. S. Supreme Court’s hearing oral arguments earlier today on marriage equality.

The nation’s highest court is examining two landmark marriage equality case: the constitutionality of the Definition of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s anti-same-sex Proposition 8.

Marriage equality vigils were also held in Lancaster, Allentown, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Scranton, and in about 155 locations nationwide.

The nation’s highest court earlier today began hearing oral arguments, which continue tomorrow. The court’s decisions could set anti-gay, same-sex marriage laws all across the nation on their ear. Early reports on the 90 minutes of oral argument indicate the justice’s exercised varied reasoning reflected in their questions to both proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage.

Lines for spectators to witness oral arguments began to form last Thursday night at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lines for spectators to witness oral arguments began to form last Thursday night at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lines for spectators to witness oral arguments began to form last Thursday night at the U.S. Supreme Court. Those at the Court report this is the earliest moment that anyone can remember this happening. By contrast, when the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) cases were argued last year, the line started on the Friday before hearings began the following Monday.

Closer to home, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called on the highest court to strike down DOMA and Proposition 8. Last month, Schneiderman led a coalition of more than a dozen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief against DOMA.

From left to right, rally speakers leading the crowd in Pledge of Allegience that includes “marriage equality for all”: Steve Dorko, Capital Region Stonewall Democrats; Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA; Deb McClain, Central PA Gay & Lesbian Chamber of commerce; Candace Sillers, Alder Health Services; Harrisburg City Controller and Mayoral candidate Dan Miller, PA State Rep. Patty Kim, 103rd Dist., and member of Equality Caucus, Ted Martin, Equality PA.

From left to right, rally speakers leading the crowd in Pledge of Allegience that includes “marriage equality for all”: Steve Dorko, Capital Region Stonewall Democrats; Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA; Deb McClain, Central PA Gay & Lesbian Chamber of commerce; Candace Sillers, Alder Health Services; Harrisburg City Controller and Mayoral candidate Dan Miller, PA State Rep. Patty Kim, 103rd Dist., and member of Equality Caucus, Ted Martin, Equality PA.

Speaking at the Harrisburg event were Steve Dorko, president, Capital Region Stonewall Democrats; Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA; Harrisburg City Controller Dan Miller, State Rep. Patty Kim, 103rd Dist., member of Equality Caucus, Ted Martin, Equality PA.

Marriage Equality for PA
Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA, told Central Voice she’d like opponents of marriage equality to understand that the only choice she made “was when to come out. I always knew growing up that I’d marry and have kids one day; just didn’t realize, at the time, that meant I would not have the same rights as my heterosexual peers.”

“My wife and I love each other,” Somers said. “We are all humans being and have the same basic emotional needs and unfortunately, don’t have the same basic protections under our current federal laws.”

Somers notes the many barriers to equality regarding same-sex marriage and basic civil rights.

“We should not be terminated from jobs for being gay,” Somers says. “We should not be turned away from housing or from securing loans because. We should not have to adopt our children as same-sex, second parents if we planned a pregnancy with our spouse. We should not have to file separate taxes,” she says.

Harrisburg Area NOW
Shamaine Daniels, Harrisburg Area NOW, an event sponsor, told Central Voice her local chapter supports marriage equality “because we believe everyone deserves to pursue healthy and loving relationships.”

The issue affects her organization’s membership when, she explains, the state restricts marriage, creates incentives and disincentives. “It has resulted in single women being disadvantaged by an unfair retirement formula, straight women being pressured to stay in unhealthy relationships, and lesbian women being excluded from receiving the benefits that stem from being married.”

Partners in the event included Capital Region Stonewall Democrats, Marriage Equality for PA, Equality PA, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, MCC of the Spirit, LGBT Interfaith Coalition, TransCentral PA, Pride Festival of Central PA, Silent Witness, Unitarian Universalist Church, Alder Health Services, PA NOW, Planned Parenthood, and Central Voice.

Allentown Vigil
More than 150 people braved freezing temperatures to show support for marriage equality March 23 in front of the federal courthouse in Allentown. The event hosted nine speakers and the A Cappella Chorus: Muhlenberg College’s Girls Next Door.

The rally was organized by Pennsylvania Diversity Network Executive Director Liz Bradbury, organizer of the event.

“Poll after poll continues to show that more Americans support marriage equality – this is a fight that is being won not by the LGBT community alone, but with support from businesses, labor unions, faith leaders, mayors and ordinary Americans who know that it’s wrong when equal rights are denied solely based on who we love,” said Adrian Shanker, President of Equality Pennsylvania. “It’s time for marriage for all Americans, and for all Pennsylvanians.”

The vigil’s keynote speaker Barb Baus explained that one of the cases is about the unfair tax burden same-sex spouses must pay when their legally married spouse dies. Baus said this mirrors her own situation. She told the hushed crowd that her legally married wife Cathy Burgi died last year, and that, “the state of Pennsylvania is treating me as a total stranger to Cathy, my partner of 15 years, by requiring me to pay the 15% inheritance tax.” Baus went on to explain that heterosexual spouses pay no inheritance tax and added, “I sincerely hope the Supreme Court follows the President’s suggestion and finds DOMA unconstitutional.”

Youtube: A video summary of March 26, 2013 court watch presented by Mark S. King – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIH-sNimhEM

Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Vigil for Marriage Equality March 23

March 22, 2013

A Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Vigil for Marriage Equality will be held March 23, 6:30 p.m.

In anticipation of the US Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, approximately 150 community members will gather at the Federal Courthouse in Allentown to hold a vigil for marriage equality.

Pennsylvania Diversity Network has organized this candlelight vigil in partnership with Equality Pennsylvania and Eastern PA PFLAG.

The Lehigh Valley Vigil in Allentown is one of at least nine vigils across Pennsylvania, and one of hundreds across the country. There are vigils planned to take place in front of federal court houses in all 50 states, but Pennsylvania has the second largest number of vigils set, after California.

When: Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 at 6:30pm. Event will last one-hour.

Where: Edward N. Cahn Courthouse and Federal Building, 504 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA

Music by: Muhlenberg A Cappella Group – Girls Next Door

Speakers:
Liz Bradbury, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Diversity Network
Adrian Shanker, President, Equality Pennsylvania
Dorothy Baran, Representative, Pennsylvania Joint Board, SEIU
Barb Baus, widow effected by the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”
Dan Bosket, of the Allentown NAACP
Rev. George Grubb, Pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church of Allentown
The Hon. Julio Guridy, President of Allentown City Council
Allyson Diane Hamm, Chair, Human Relations Commission of the City of Allentown

March 25-27 Vigils for Marriage Equality

March 13, 2013

By Central Voice
Central to your life.

March 26 candle

Vigils are planned for March 25-27 in front of Federal Courthouses all across Pennsylvania in support of Marriage Equality. The events are being coordinated by Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA).

The US Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments March 27 on the constitutionality of the Definition of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s anti-same-sex Proposition 8. The court’s decision could set anti-gay, same-sex marriage laws all across the nation on their ear.

Harrisburg Federal Court House
March 26, beginning at 4:30 p.m. across the street from Harrisburg City’s Federal Court House, 3rd and Walnut Sts., a coalition of groups will to hold a vigil. Partners in the event included Capital Region Stonewall Democrats, Marriage Equality for PA, Equality PA, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, MCC of the Spirit, LGBT Interfaith Coalition, TransCentral PA, Pride Festival of Central PA, Silent Witness, Unitarian Universalist Church, Alder Health Services, PA NOW, Planned Parenthood, with Central Voice and other outlets providing media promotion.

Speaking at the event were Steve Dorko, president, Capital Region Stonewall Democrats; Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA; Harrisburg City Controller Dan Miller, State Rep. Patty Kim, 103rd Dist., member of Equality Caucus, Ted Martin, Equality PA.

Other Locations
Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA) is also hosting or co-sponsoring candlelight vigils on March 25, 5-7 p.m. at the James A Byrne Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia. Several other groups have signed on to this vigil including the primary sponsor, Delaware Valley Americans United; and co-sponsors, Philadelphia Family Pride, the Giampolo Law Group, Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, SafeGuards LGBT Health Resource Center, and Southern New Jersey Gay Pride.

On Tuesday, March 26, ME4PA hosts a vigil in Erie and co-sponsors an event in Scranton.

More Info:
http://www.ME4PA.org
http://www.CapitalStonewall.org
http://www.LightToJustice.org
http://www.thecentralvoice.ning.com

Contact:
Media Contacts/Event Organizers:
David Moore (814)746-1739
Joshua Adam Szczesny (814)923-3149
Erie Event: Emily Crofoot (814)572-3282
Harrisburg Event Coordinator: Katie Somers (215)205-5395
Group Email: ME4PA2@gmail.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/me4pa
Online: http://www.me4pa.org
Twitter: @me4pa

Facebook Page
Philadelphia
March 25 5 PM – 7 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/46460614360

Erie
March 26
7 PM – 8:30 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/57529464583

Harrisburg
March 26, 4:30 PM – 8 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/50699265600611

Scranton
March 26, 7 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/514053185300001/

Pittsburgh
March 27, 7 PM – 8 PM
https://www.facebook.com/events/490251544344170/

Lawsuit Threatened Over Gay-Straight Alliance Club in Franklin County School

March 13, 2013

By Central Voice
Central to your life.

After board members voted 5-4 not to support a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, two groups have threatened a lawsuit against the district if the board doesn’t change its vote by the end of the week.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter to the district’s leadership Tuesday, saying the board is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act. The club has been meeting but is not formally recognized by district. Not having recognition hampers communicating about the club and fund raising, examples of resources used by other recognized organizations.

Carl Barton, one of the school directors to vote against formation of the club, told Fox43, “I thought there should be more public discussion. It has become controversial other places.” He refused to speak on camera.

Central Voice asked Martin to reflect on school board member Carl Barton’s statement to Fox43 about more public discussion. Martin responded,”As for discussion, they can have all the respectful conversation they like but in the end the law requires them to permit the formation of a GSA.”

Martin continued with “The school board has a wonderful opportunity to let their LGBT students know that they don’t have to wait until they get older to have a safe space to be themselves and that they can have it right now, at Chambersburg High School.”

Since the controversy began, Thomas McCalmont, a Chambersburg Area Senior High School alumnus has coordinated a petition on change.org which as of this morning has received 5,698 signatures. He hopes to have at least one board member change votes, reversing the 5-4 refusal.

In his communication to school board directors, McCalmont reports that bullying is bad within the school, sometimes reported, sometimes not, and that students fear retribution. He notes that “Students who identify as LGBTQ are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied in school, and 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 9 out of 10 students that identify as LGBTQ report being harassed at school.”

Martin says the lack of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law in Pennsylvania means local school districts are left on their own to ensure safe environments for LGBT students. “We hope that Chambersburg School Board will do the right thing and allow students to organize a GSA in their district.

The school board meets tonight but no action on the matter is expected.

Petition: http://www.change.org/chambersburgGSA

Dan Miller Formally Announces Mayoral Campaign

March 12, 2013

By Central Voice – Central your life.

This morning (March 12, 2012) Dan Miller formally announced his bid for mayor of Harrisburg.

Dan Miller, current Harrisburg City Controller, formally announced his candidacy for mayor.

Dan Miller, current Harrisburg City Controller, formally announced his candidacy for mayor.

Openly-gay Miller, a former City Council member and currently City Controller, faces a slate of other Democratic candidates in a city with an overwhelming Democratic voter registration edge over Republican and Independent voters.

Miller said he is “the right guy” for the city’s current financial mess, citing his finance background. He also noted that with past media reports of “animosity” between him and current Mayor Linda Thompson, he said that he had not talked to Thompson often over the last three years and not for about the last six months.

Miller cited the city’s dilapidated condition – pot holes, sink holes, clogged drainage ducts, and massive debt – as the reality of a city that “I believe has great potential”.

Traditionally, whoever wins the Primary Election, this year May 21, usually carries the vote in the General Election, barring a successful write-in campaign by an opposing party challenger or, as is shaping up this round, a challenge from declared Independent candidate Nevin Mindlin.

Mindlin is the Republican candidate who last election cycle came within 842 votes of beating then-City Council member and current Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson.

Nevin Mindlin formally launched his campaign for Harrisburg Mayor March 9 as an Independent candidate. Mindlin ran against incumbent Mayor Linda Thompson last round and lost by 842 votes.

Nevin Mindlin formally launched his campaign for Harrisburg Mayor March 9 as an Independent candidate. Mindlin ran against incumbent Mayor Linda Thompson last round and lost by 842 votes.

Mindlin announced his campaign as an Independent March 9. His campaign makes it possible that whoever wins the Democratic Primary May 21 will face a challenger in the General Election.

All declared candidates as of today, the final day to file documents except for non-Republican and non-Democratic candidates, are Democratic candidates Eric Papenfuse, owner of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, incumbent mayor Linda Thomspon, Miller, city resident Lewis Butts Jr. Harrisburg City Council member Brad Koplinski, long thought to be interested in the mayor’s office, has switched gears and announced he is running for Lieutenant Governor.

Mindlin’s March 9 announcement makes him the fifth declared candidate. Unlike regular party candidates, Mindlin has until August to file all required documents, although his campaign material indicates he expects to have all documents filed by the end of April.

Worried about LGBT Aging Issues? April 20 FREE Workshop Available

March 9, 2013

ElderIniativelogo2

Presented by the Philadelphia-based LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI), a workshop entitled “The Aging Mind 101” will be presented Sat., April 20, Noon to 2 p.m. at St. Luke and the Epiphany, 330 S. 13th St., Philadelphia.

The program is part of the Initiative’s LGBTEI Conversations Series and is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive issues present unique challenges to members of LGBT) communities as they age. The workshop will address healthy aging and techniques for maintaining mental abilities, warning signs of disease states, the psychosocial implications for the patient, and issues facing their caregivers.

Presenters include representatives from Penn Memory Center, Mazzoni Center, Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Coping with diminished mental capabilities, or taking care of someone experiencing that loss, is difficult in any circumstance. For LGBT older adults, the impact is more severe. More LGBT older adults live alone than do members of the general public. Because of stigma, prejudice and intolerance, many LGBT people do not seek care. Support from biological family members is often not an option and families of choice are usually of the same age group and dealing with their own health issues. Additionally, LGBT people are often called upon to be caregivers for their aging parents. Whether caring for parents, partners or friends, the stress is at times overwhelming. Coping mechanisms and resources will be presented as part of the workshop.

The LGBTEI, headquartered in Philadelphia, fosters and advocates for services and resources that are competent, culturally sensitive, inclusive and responsive to the needs of LGBT older adults. The LGBTEI is presenting this program as part of a collaborative effort of the LGBTEI; Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter; Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE); Circle of Friends; Penn Memory Center; Social Solutions; William Way Community Center; and the Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties area agencies on aging.

Registration: Contact the LGBT Elder Initiative at info@lgbtei.org or call 267-546-3448. Web site – www.lgbtei.org

Be There March 26: Light the Way to Justice!

March 6, 2013

Light the Way to Justice!
March 26 candle

March 26th from 4:30 – 8 pm
3rd & Walnut St, Harrisburg

Join regional lgbt groups for a Vigil on the evening the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 8.

Partners in the event included Capital Region Stonewall Democrats, Marriage Equality for PA, Equality PA, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, MCC of the Spirit, LGBT Interfaith Coalition, TransCentral PA, Pride Festival of Central PA, Silent Witness, Unitarian Universalist Church, Alder Health Services, PA NOW, Planned Parenthood, and Central Voice.

State Rep. Patty Kim, who represents Harrisburg/Steelton lgbt community.

State Rep. Patty Kim, who represents Harrisburg/Steelton lgbt community.

Scheduled speakers are State Rep. Patty Kim, 103rd Dist., member of PA LGBT Equality Caucus; Steve Dorko, president, Capital Region Stonewall Democrats; Katie Somers, Marriage Equality for PA; Harrisburg City Controller Dan Miller, and Ted Martin, Equality PA.

http://www.ME4PA.org
http://www.CapitalStonewall.org
http://www.LightToJustice.org