Archive for November, 2013

June 9 Trail Date for PA Gay-marriage Ban Challenge

November 27, 2013

Challenge expected as early as next week

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III has set June 9 as the trial date for a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s gay-marriage ban. In the process, Jones rejecting a request by defendants to delay the proceeding. The two major defendants are the Pennsylvania secretaries of the departments of Health and Revenue.

Jones said, the Associated Press and ABC News reported, a defense request to delay the trial until August would be unnecessary. “I’m an optimist by nature,” he said.

Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state that bars same-sex marriage. Nationally, Illinois this week joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing it.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who took office in January, has refused to defend the law in court, saying it violates the state and federal constitutions.

William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice who heads the private legal team that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett hired to defend the state officials, said he plans to appeal Jones’ ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by next week.

The defendants’ motion cited a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision to argue that federal courts lack jurisdiction over state marriage laws. But Jones said that decision has been eroded by the court’s subsequent rulings on constitutional challenges based on sex or sexual identity.

“The jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972,” Jones said in his opinion.

Lebanon Pastor to Decide His Own Fate

November 21, 2013

Has 30 Days to Decide

By Frank Pizzoli

“Outing” – it’s not just for gay people anymore.

That’s the term that Rev. Frank Schaefer uses to describe what has happened to him.

Nov. 18 a jury of 13 United Methodist pastors determined that he had violated church law when he performed a marriage ceremony for his eldest son, Tim, and his male partner in 2007.

The jury ordered Rev. Frank Schaefer suspended from his ministerial duties for 30 days.

“At the end of the 30 days I must respond in writing about whether or not I can adhere to church laws regarding same-sex marriage,” Schaefer told Central Voice. He will also be interviewed by the churches Board of Ordained Ministries.

“I think the church was very smart in how they made their decision. They treated me like I was an honest man but basically deferred judgment to me. I will decide if I can abide by the rules. They also know the eyes of the world are upon them,” Schaefer said.

By being an honest man, Schaefer is referring to how he originally handled marrying his son Tim and his partner.

“In the fall of 2006 I put in writing to the Bishop and the church that I would be performing the marriage of my son to his partner,” Schaefer explained.

“I received no response from church leadership.” The wedding actually took place in 2007. But the formal complaint to the church hierarchy from then-fellow parishioner and now former church member Jon Boger did not come until late in 2013.

Boger testified at Schaefer’s hearing, a procedure that in many ways mimics a formal court proceeding but is, in fact, a church proceeding that has no standing in the church-and-state separated legal system rooted in the nation’s history.

Boger, according to media reports, broke down on the witness stand when questioned by church counsel, describing Schafer’s marrying his son and those who support his action as taking “the law into their own hands” and undermining the church’s credibility and integrity. Although Boger meant church law, it is not possible for same-sex couples to marry in Pennsylvania, a law that is currently being challenged from a multitude of legal directions. In that regard both church and state law mimic each other.

In an interesting backstory Boger testified during church trial that six weeks before filing his complaint that his mother, who was employed as the church’s choir director, felt as if she were forced to submit her resignation to the church. “He said the two events were unrelated,” Schaefer said.

Regardless of the sequence of the events, Schaefer sounds like a man undaunted in his resolve to do what he thinks is right.

“What propels me to be a public, outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community is that I was asked to answer for my actions. I see it as ‘outing,'” he explains. Schaefer had long been a silent supporter of gay civil rights but, as he explained, “I did not want to divide my church.” As he said during the proceeding, “I cannot go back to being a silent supporter. I must continue to be in ministry with all people and speak for LGBTQ people.”

If he decides to leave his church, he does not lose his Princeton Seminary degree. His upset church can only set rules for ministers ordained into their ranks, not all ministers.

“Should I decide to seek membership in the United Church of Christ, or as Central Voice has asked about, the Metropolitan Community Church of the Spirit, like any other candidate I would have to complete their ordination requirements,” Schaefer explains.

Reflecting upon what has been a draining experience for him, Schaefer says, “I remain inspired by so many people. The outpouring of support, handwritten notes, social network communications, there are so many people out there who understand what is happening.”

The day following the church jury’s decision to suspend Schaefer, a group called Faithful America were planning to deliver more than 19,000 petition signatures to United Methodist Bishop Peggy Johnson.

The petition reads: “Bishop Peggy Johnson, please join with the growing number of United Methodists who are obeying Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and disregarding the church’s immoral anti-gay rules. Don’t allow any more trials for pastors who officiate at gay weddings.”

There was a time when women were not ordained yet alone promoted to positions of authority in her church.

Harrisburg Capital Steps – Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 21, 2013

This evening right after sunset about 70 LGBT individuals, organizations, and allies observed Transgender Day of Remembrance Nov. 20 on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capital.


The annual remembrance honors Rita Hester, whose murder on Nov. 28, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Hester’s murder – like most anti-transgender murder cases – has yet to be solved.

Jeanine Rusman, president, TransCentral PA

Jeanine Rusman, president, TransCentral PA

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender – that is, as a transsexual, cross-dresser, or otherwise gender-variant -many were a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people or were themselves overwhelmed with despair.

Nov. 12 was National Day of Remembrance and all through the month communities hosted events, including Bethlehem, Collegeville, Drexel Hill, Kutztown, Kutztown University, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chatham University, Reading, Washington,
West Chester University, University of Pennsylvania, and Penn State.

Lebanon’s Rev. Schaeffer Trail Begins; American Prospect Magazine Weighs In

November 18, 2013

The trail of Lebanon minister Rev. Frank Schaeffer, pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona, began about one hour ago at a Christian retreat center near Pottstown about 40 miles outside of Phildelphia. The United Methodist pastor is standing trial on charges that when he officiated over the same-sex marriage of his son, he violated church policy. He could be defrocked, a possible penalty his fellow Christians may decide.

Below Gabriel G. Arana, a writer for The American Prospect magazine, shares with Central Voice readers his story on the procedings and the rising tide of church support for marriage equality.

The Gay Awakening
By Gabriel G. Arana

November 18, 2013
The American Prospect

While Christian leadership has held fast against the changing tide of public opinion on same-sex marriage, congregations have moved on without them.

Any other day, Reverend Frank Schaeffer might look out onto the 179 acres of woods at Camp Innabah—a Christian retreat center 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—and stop to ponder God’s design in the natural beauty. But today, his mind is on another matter: his trial.

“There probably won’t be an acquittal,” says Schaeffer, who faces losing his credentials to preach in the United Methodist Church, the country’s largest mainline protestant denomination. “I just hope the penalty will be restorative rather than punitive.”

The 51-year-old pastor’s crime? Officiating his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007. Schaeffer informed the church leadership that he would be performing the ceremony at the time, but disciplinary proceedings were not started against him until last April, when a member of his congregation reported him. Under the church’s Book of Discipline, “homosexual practice” is considered “incompatible with Christian teaching.” “I knew if I spoke out, it would be very divisive,” Schaeffer says. “But I feel like I was outed to the world and couldn’t go back.”

Schaeffer’s trial, which over the weekend prompted 30 other Methodist ministers in Pennsylvania to express solidarity by sanctifying a same-sex union, has highlighted the growing divide among the faithful over homosexuality. It’s a rift that extends across denominations. Except for the Episcopal Church, which recognized same-sex unions in 2009 and ordains openly gay and lesbian priests, the leadership of the country’s major Christian denominations has presented a solid front against the spread of same-sex marriage across the country. Further down the totem pole, churches are moving on without their leadership. According to a forthcoming report from the National Congregations Study at Duke University, the number of congregations allowing openly gay and lesbian members has increased from 38 to 48 percent since 2006. Twenty-seven percent of churches gave gay and lesbian congregants leadership roles in the same timeframe—an 8 percent jump.

“Things don’t change that much in religion—there’s a lot of stability,” says Mark Chaves, a sociologist at Duke and one of the researchers behind the study. “This is one of the biggest jumps on a specific subject we’ve seen since we first started collecting data in 1998.” Indeed, while public support for same-sex marriage shot up in the last ten years—in 2003, only 33 percent of the public supported gay unions; today, 55 percent do—polls have generally shown attitudes among religious folk trending upward more languorously. But those who study religious opinion say the trend line among the faithful began to shoot up between 2008 and 2009. “The sea change has hit among religious organizations,” says Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a think tank in Washington, D.C. “Overall, what we’re seeing are the changes in American culture broadly reflected in attitudes of religious Americans as well.” The rise is driven by young people, who tend to favor same-sex marriage, and the increasing number of Americans—both religious and not—who personally know someone who is gay, which studies show is the best predictor of attitudes on gay unions.

While the numbers from the National Congregations Study offer a bottom-up view of how things are changing in the pews, data from the PRRI offers more of a drill-down into the shift within different denominations. Change in attitudes among the faithful are not evenly distributed among denominations. While a majority of Catholics and mainline Protestants now support same-sex marriage, only 19 percent of white evangelicals and 37 percent of minority Protestants do. But, reflecting the findings of the National Congregations Study, in each group there has been an upturn. Since 2006, support for same-sex marriage increased 17 percent among Catholics, 14 percent among mainline Protestants, 6 percent among white evangelicals, and 10 percent among minority Protestants.

Like many religious institutions, the divide in the Methodist Church falls along geographic lines. While mainline Protestants tend to be supporting of gay rights, the Methodist Church is more heavily concentrated in the South than the Lutheran or Episcopal churches. “Methodists in the South are highly influenced by evangelicalism, which is why you see these battles being more pitched in the United Methodist Church,” Jones says. For groups like the Episcopal Church, the split is international. After the church ordained openly gay pastor Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2007, more than a dozen jurisdictions peeled off to form the Anglican Church in North America, which was quickly followed by the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda.

The largest upswing in support for same-sex marriage has been among black protestants, which jumped from just 19 percent in 2006 to 43 percent today—a 24-point spread. Jones credits religious and non-religious leaders in the black community for the shift. “One of the things that certainly has played a role is the election of Obama and his own public shift in his stance on the issue, followed very quickly by the NAACP’s shift,” Jones says. Opposition to same-sex marriage in the black church has been a major source of contention in the public sphere, with groups like the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex unions, trying to pit the LGBT and black communities against each other. If the polling is any indication, the strategy hasn’t worked.

At least one religious group has remained steadfast in its position on same-sex marriage. Non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans, of which Jews make up a large percentage, support gay unions at a rate of over 70 percent, and have for the last decade.

With the rift in the pews growing, the big question for religious institutions is whether the issue will lead to denominational splits as it did with slavery, which cleaved the Baptist Church and many other protestant denominations in two. A similar breakup occurred in the early 20th century over the doctrinal issue of Biblical inerrancy—the idea that the Bible contains the perfectly preserved word of God. Jones says that whether churches see similar schisms over same-sex marriage depends on how persistent the divide is. Given how quickly attitudes are changing, he thinks such a largescale schism is unlikely. “When you have big splits, the issue has to sit around for a while,” he says. “But the issue is moving too quickly to produce settled coalitions that are facing off.”

The Methodists don’t appear poised for a similar schism—at least not yet. But as the number of Methodists who support gay rights creeps upward, it is bound to create friction. For Schaeffer, whose trial is scheduled to conclude tomorrow, the issue is not an abstract one. “Really, this isn’t an issue of theology or doctrine,” Shaeffer says. “This is about people. It’s about the life of my child.”

Reprinted with permission from The American Prospect.

PA to Observe National Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 14, 2013

By Jason
Keystone Student Voice

November is also Transgender Awareness Month.

The National Transgender Day of Remembrance is held on various dates in communities and campuses across the nation to memorialize those who have been killed due to anti-transgender bigotry.

The list for 16 Pennsylvania locations is below.

Jeanine Rusman, president, TransCentral PA

Jeanine Rusman, president, TransCentral PA

Many victims of anti-transgender violence have been invisible in their communities and attackers not often brought to justice. The remembrance brings together communities to mourn and honor victims of anti-transgender hate crimes and as a call to action towards the respect of all people regardless of gender identity or expression.

The Maze Garden (3rd and South New Street), November 17th, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (3424 Ridge Pike), November 20th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Drexel Hill
Collenbrook United Church (5290 Township Line Road), November 20th, 6:30pm-7:30pm

Perry Square, November 24th, 4:00pm-5:00pm
Hosts: PERSAD, Erie Sisters, TransFamily of Erie

The steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol (3rd and State Street), November 20th, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Host: TransCentral PA

Kutztown University (15200 Kutztown Road), November 21st, 11:00am-12:00pm
Host: Kutztown University GLBTQ Center

The Penn LGBT Center (3907 Spruce Street), November 20th, 2:00pm-5:00pm
Host: PFLAG Philadelphia

Drexel University – Dragon Statue (3400 Market Street), November 21st, 6:00pm-7:00pm
Host: Drexel FUSE

The William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce Street), November 20th, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Host: The William Way Community Center

The William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce Street), November 20th, 4:00pm-6:00pm
Host: The Mazzoni Center Ally Safe Schools Program

Chatham University – Laughlin Music Hall, Welker Room (5798 West Woodland Road), November 22nd, 7:00pm-8:00pm

Calvary United Church of Christ (640 Centre Street), November 20th, 7:00pm-8:00pm

First Presbyterian Church (100 East Wheeling Street), November 20th, 6:00pm-8:00pm

West Chester
West Chester University – Sykes Ballroom A (700 South High Street), November 15th, 11:00am-12:00pm
More Information

Nov. 21
University of Pennsylvania: Gender Talk
Penn LGBT Center, 8:00pm – 10:00pm

Nov. 21
Penn State – University Park: F to eMbody
Old Main, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Sims and Cutler Want Merit Selection of PA Judges

November 12, 2013

Today State Reps. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster; and Brian Sims, D-Phila., have introduced legislation to establish a merit-based system for appointing statewide judges.

Cutler said, “I believe that it is time to have a conversation about how we select our judges. I personally believe that the integrity of our justice system requires that we select judges based on more than voter turn-out, name ID, or fundraising ability. I believe we should be looking for the members of the bar with the highest qualifications, not just the best political skills.”

PA State Rep. Brian Sims

PA State Rep. Brian Sims

“The people have shown year after year that most of them aren’t that attached to electing judges – the turnout in last week’s election was below 10 percent in some counties, and only an estimated 14 to 17 percent statewide. It’s time to remove partisan politics and campaign contributions from selecting our judiciary and implement a merit-based system for choosing Pennsylvania’s statewide judges,” Sims said.

“As you can see from the folks backing this effort, merit selection transcends party lines and geographical divides and pursues just one, clear goal: placing the most qualified and competent jurists in the courtroom,” Sims said.

“Changing the way we select judges is important for the integrity of the courts and is what the people of this state deserve,” former Gov. Tom Ridge said. “State lawmakers must do what is right for our judicial system. We can’t allow time to continue to slip by with a system that needs to be fixed.”

Former Gov. Ed Rendell said, “A merit selection system with citizen participation will elevate the justice system in Pennsylvania and take it out of the political and fundraising environment. I’ve been in favor of adopting this system since my days as District Attorney in 1978.”

Merit selection would be a hybrid elective-appointive system. A bipartisan citizens’ nominating commission of lawyers and non-lawyers selected by elected officials would review applicants’ qualifications and recommend a short list to the governor for nomination. After Senate confirmation, a judge sits for a short term before standing for a non-partisan retention election.

Merit selection would focus on qualifications: legal experience, reputation for ethical behavior, honesty, fairness and good temperament. Judges could no longer be chosen according to their ballot position, campaign fundraising abilities, or other irrelevant factors.

The constitutional amendment would establish an Appellate Court Nominating Commission made up of 15 members: six appointed by the governor (no more than half from one party, each member from a different county, must include two retired judges); eight by the General Assembly (chosen by the majority and minority leaders of both houses); and one by the attorney general. Registered lobbyists, elected or appointed officials, officers in any political party or organization, as well as staff and family members of the appointers would be prohibited from serving.

Since the bill is a proposed state constitutional amendment, it must pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then go before the people in a public referendum. Additional implementing legislation with more details will be introduced in the future.

The legislators were joined at today’s news conference by other supporters of the bill, including Rep. Pamela DeLissio, D-Phila./Montgomery.

“Change needs to be legislated in order to ensure integrity regarding how judges are selected. I support these reforms because they envision a bipartisan, citizen nominating commission as opposed to the current system of campaigning and the need to solicit campaign contributions,” DeLissio said.

Lynn Marks, executive director, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts said, “Judges are different from officials in the legislative and executive branches so it makes sense to select them differently. Judges must decide cases solely on the facts and the law, not based on political considerations, platforms or constituencies. It just doesn’t make sense to have a totally partisan process for a nonpartisan job. And the problem with money in judicial races is that most of the money comes from attorneys and special interests that often appear in state courts.”

“The League of Women Voters vigorously supports the merit selection system for selecting statewide, appellate judges,” said Susan Carty, president, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvanians deserve to have their faith restored. They deserve to believe their judges are impartial, independent and unencumbered.”

Pennsylvania’s governors from the past 18 years, from both parties, support merit selection, including Pennsylvania’s current governor.

ENDA: Small Biz to Boehner – You’re Wrong

November 8, 2013

ENDA: Small Biz to Boehner – You’re Wrong
By Cental Voice

Make no mistake about it, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) opposesthe
Employment Non-discrimination Act passed by the Senate yesterday. The bill now goes to the House where Boehner says the measure would put a financial burden on businesses.

“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

Although it is good to be King, the facts don’t always acknowledge your crown.

Last July, the Government Accountability Office issued a report concluding that in states with LGBT workplace protections, “there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said,”The Speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it’s like to go to work every day afraid of being fired. Instead of letting the far right trample him again, it’s time for Speaker Boehner to stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA.”

Despite Boehner’s fears of “frivolous litigation” and job loss, Small Business Majority, a national, non-partisan small business organization representing America’s 28 million small businesses, feels differently. Scientific public opinion polling released earlier this year by Small Business Majority about the views of business owners on ENDA protections shows support for ENDA.

John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority, said, “The Senate’s passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 is good news for small business owners, their workers and the economy. Small employers support policies that maximize their ability to attract and retain quality workers and help them grow their businesses. This legislation would do just that by leveling the playing field for small employers and workers and eliminating inefficiencies and costs that cut into profits and undermine small businesses’ bottom lines.”

Highlights from the national, scientific opinion poll, include:

* Small business owners strongly favor federal and state laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in employment: More than two-thirds of entrepreneurs (67%) believe federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against gay and transgender people. Seven in 10 owners in states without such policies also agree their state should have a law prohibiting this type of discrimination, and 40% strongly agree.

* Small businesses strongly believe an employer should not be able to fire or refuse to hire someone who is gay or transgender based on their (the employer’s) religious beliefs: A 63% majority believes an employer should not be able to fire or refuse to hire someone who is gay or transgender if working with a gay or transgender employee conflicts with their (the employer’s) religious beliefs. What’s more, 70% believe a business should not be legally allowed to refuse services to some customers but not others based on religious beliefs.

* The vast majority of small business owners didn’t know it is legal under federal and/or state law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay or lesbian: When asked if, to the best of their knowledge, it is legal or illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay or transgender, a striking 81% of small business owners said it is illegal. Merely 9% knew it is legal. In terms of state law, 78% of entrepreneurs were unaware that it is legal in their state to refuse to hire someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Implementing non-discrimination laws that allow employers to treat all people equally regardless of sexual orientation will help small businesses retain more quality employees and free them from extra administrative burdens. We urge the House to build upon today’s Senate vote by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013. It’s the smart and right thing to do for small businesses, their employees and our country,” Arensmeyer said.

Art Association Invitational Reception Dec. 6

November 6, 2013

Five diverse artists exhibit photographs, acrylic paintings, mixed-media works, and Robots at The Art Association of Harrisburg Nov. 29-Jan. 2. A reception for the exhibition is Fri., Dec. 6, 5-8 p.m.

AAH Board Member Anne Davis is Exhibition Sponsor with Davis and David Volkman serving as reception hosts. Young cellist Greg Flury will provide music for the reception, and a special jewelry trunk show by Susan Wayne Wohler will be presented in the Sales Gallery that evening.

Photographer C.R.Cain of Mechanicsburg was editor and publisher of a poetry magazine “Beauty for Ashes Poetry Review” from 1995-2000, an experience which helped to hone his ability to see his own photographic work with a critical eye. Cain enjoys travelling across the US, photographing many of the western National Parks. However, his photos included in the AAH exhibition were taken in a field of abandoned pianos. Cain had been at the site to document a community garden being created, and discovered trucks unloading ancient pianos in preparation to burning them. He spent hours that day crawling around the collection of piano history, and his photos are the results of his being there at precisely the right time. Cain said that the photos are also “the result of a piano man who surely must have loved his work, and I am hopeful he would have been moved to see his work continue on in these photographs.”

Judy Kelly
Judy Kelly, a.k.a. “Robot Girl,” began creating “robots” from vintage recycled materials only about a year ago, but has attained great success and recognition for her unique art-form, including a two-page article in “Harrisburg Magazine.”Each robot she creates has its own name and distinct personality, representing history by telling a story of the past. Words she uses to describe her robots are “quirky, whimsical, and humourous.” She hopes that the viewers find something in her robots that make them smile, laugh, and learn! She has exhibited these charming chaps throughout the region during 2012 and 2013.

Sandi Neiman Lovitz
Sandi Neiman Lovitz, of Philadelphia, says that even as a small girl she was captivated by colours and light, and she determined to create the beautiful colours herself. She avers, “My paintings are about colour, particularly the way colours interact with one another and change our perception of them. My current body of abstract paintings is a dance between painting and the molecular images drawn from the world of biochemistry, showcasing the basic geometric forms that are the underpinnings of life.” Lovitz works primarily in acrylics, but adds areas of spray paint, coloured pencil, flashe paint, and sometimes pastels. She finds that this blend creates a rich environment that consists of many layers that influence each other, “just as the decisions we make throughout our lives create the layers that make us who we are.” Lovitz’s work is exhibited in galleries from New York to Florida.

Jay Ressler
Jay Ressler says that “like a child stuffing fireflies in a jar, I make art to savour and imagine fragments of time.” He goes on to say that “frozen moments have a magical quality as the layers and complexities are revealed.” Ressler has found inspiration in the writings of Latin-American “magical realists” such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He calls his collection of photos for the AAH show “Magical Mystery Tour,” as it’s a selection of multi-layered photographs that aim, through their painterly character, to tell stories about “how we live in the so-called’post-industrial age.’”
He goes on to explain that his photographs don’t cast a nostalgic look to the past, but rather they visit places not widely seen, embracing the textured present as it is lived “with a hopeful eye to the future.” Ressler, largely self-taught, recently studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. He has been taking photos since his early teens and has been actively exhibiting his work since 2006.

Fred Swarr
Fred Swarr’s goal is to portray, through his paintings, a visual image of the music that we hear and feel through our hearts and minds. A resident of Mt. Gretna, Swarr has been an active painter since 1969, with a Master’s in Art Education. He has worked on a variety of surfaces, including sheet-music backgrounds with a masterful use of colours, rich textures and unique subject matter. Swarr portrays a visual image of musical instruments, people playing instruments, musical celebrities, and colourful abstracts. Besides exhibiting his work in galleries, Swarr also paints “live” for nonprofit organizations as fundraisers.

AAH galleries, 21 North Front st., Harrisburg; 717-236-1432;

Perspective: What’s Next for Employment Non-discrimination Act?

November 5, 2013

By Central Voice

Yesterday’s flurry of activity in the US Senate on S. 815, the Employment Non‑Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA) raises hopes that the measure will be passed, possibly Wednesday, by that chamber and then sent to the US House for its consideration.

For perspective, here’s where the elusive goal of a Federal LGBT employment law stands:

* Yesterday’s vote was the first time since 1996 that the Senate has voted on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That measure failed by one vote (49-50).

* Yesterday’s bill as moved forward, reports indicate, includes protections for transexual individuals, a sticking point in earlier efforts to revive ENDA. In its current form, the bill would ban sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in most workplaces.

* Yesterday’s vote did not “pass” the measure. Rather, the vote, 61-30, allows 30 hours for the Senate to debate and offer amendments to the measure as originally presented. The vote means that the threat of a filibuster has been removed.

* The 30-hour discussion and amendment period is crucial to the final version that may or may not be finally voted upon by the full Senate. Amendments are expected to be considered.

* Seven Republicans broke ranks with their party in voting to block any filibusters against the bill. They were joined by all 55 Democrats in the Senate to achieve the 61-30 vote. The technical term for the vote is “cloture” which means the measure moves an important step closer to possible passage.

*Republicans voting for cloture on the bill were Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Mark Kirk, Rob Portman and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, as reported earlier by Central Voice.

Obama’s reaction
President Obama’s press secretary said on his behalf that the president “has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would establish lasting and comprehensive Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Speaker Boehner
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel stated in an email sent to several reporters yesterday.

Boehner’s objection seems to reflect Toomey’s fears as expressed to four advocates who last Thursday spoke with one of the senator’s staffers in Harrisburg. One of the advocates, Marilyn Kanuck, told Central Voice that Toomey had concerns that small business owners would not be able to fire people, for example, for poor performance fearing that gay employees may feel they were fired for being the gay and use that circumstance to object to the firing. Toomey’s office indicated he would release a statement, perhaps today, on his vote.

Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality, has suggested that she does not expect House movement of the bill in this Congress, stating that the Senate vote “will change the playing field once we have a friendlier House that can tackle ENDA.”

Rep. Charlie Dent
In the US House, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent is pushing Boehner.
He told The Washington Post, “I believe the Speaker should allow a vote on this bill. I believe that the American public wants to make sure people are not discriminated against, based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney has indicated that although the administration is not considering an executive order to bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers — a partial way around Congress not passing the bill – no action by the House gives the White House a reason to consider the temporary move.

PA Sen. Toomey Votes in Favor of ENDA

November 5, 2013

By Central Voice

Pennsylvania US Senator Pat Toomey today joined several other Republicans and 54 Democrats to bring to the floor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Senators voted 61-30 to “invoke cloture” on the controversial legislation. The vote sets into motion up to 30 hours of debate and amendments before a vote for final passage expected Wednesday.

Toomey ultimately decided to vote in favor of moving ENDA closer to a final vote. He has, as of this posting, declined to comment on his vote, indicating he would issue a statement later.

Equality PA said in an email that Toomey had heard from more than “4,000 individual Pennsylvanians, more than 300 small business owners, and faith leaders from around the commonwealth” and, by his vote, “stood on the right side of history and against workplace discrimination.”

Here in south central Pennsylvania local advocates Alex Reber and Marlene Kanuck joined by David Madsen and Nathan Groff, representing the Equality PA, met last Thursday with a Toomey staffer in the senator’s Harrisburg office.

Reber earlier today told Central Voice,”All in all it was a pretty positive experience.” Collectively, the group shared personal stories of why a Federal job protection is important.

If the Senate passes the controversial measure, as voted on today or as amended during the 30 hours of debate and possible amendment, the bill would next go to the US House of Representatives for their consideration.