The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking same-sex couples whose stories can be used to help shape public and legal opinion, as well as demonstrate harm due to not being able to marry.
From the organization's website:
"The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting to ensure all same-sex couples have the legal protections necessary to sustain their relationships and families. But winning the right to domestic partnership, civil union or marriage begins with you. Tell us your story: It is the most powerful weapon to create change. Real couples with real stories will convince America that all relationships deserve equal protection under the law."
The survey asks about couples about marriage rights, health care access, discrimination and other issues. The survey can be found here. By participating in the survey, couples are giving a coalition of groups working toward same-sex rights authorization to use the information for advocacy work.
Update 2:48 p.m.: We inadvertently misquoted Sen. Farnese at the end of an original posting. We have corrected it to attribute the quote to Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, and co-chairman of the LGBT caucus
Could Pennsylvania be moving forward in terms of protections for its LGBT citizens?
Possibly. A broad group of state lawmakers today introduced bills HB 300/SB300, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression statewide in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. And they cited a record high level of support for the measures.
"These identical proposals have a common goal — to end, once and for all, the last vestige of legal discrimination in Pennsylvania based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression," said state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill), a co-sponsor of HB300 with Republican state Rep. Chris Ross, and sponsor of the bill in previous years.
Frankel noted that its the first time the bills have had such broad, bipartisan support, with 77 sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate.
"We believe today marks a significant step for LGBT equality in Pennsylvania," Frankel said.
Frankel said he hoped that lawmakers could build momentum to pass the bills. "We know the climate is still difficult," he said. "LGBT progress lags behind in Pennsylvania at an alarming rate, especially when compared to 21 states across the country that already provide for LGBT protections in employment and housing."
(Indeed during the press conference announcing the legislation, ultra-conservative Republican and pride of Cranberry Daryl Metcalfe introduced, yet again, a constitutional amendment to define marriage in Pennsylvania as being between a man and a woman.)
Legislators also announced private-sector support from UPMC, SEIU and AARP of Pennsylvania.
"The fact is the only reason to oppose this bill is you don't support equality," said
Philadelphia Democratic Senator Larry Farnese, whose the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill in the Senate Sen. Daylin Leach, , D-Montgomery/Delaware, and co-chairman of the LGBT caucus. "I am tired and have no respect for the argument that this bill won't change anything. If there is one case of discrimination in Pennsylvania, it's one too many."
Equality PA is encouraging residents who support the measures to contact their legislators.
The Allegheny County Department of Human Services SAFE START program in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh is looking at providing a parenting program for same-sex couples.
The organizations are distributing a survey for same-sex parents to guide the program adaptation. It can be found here.
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States begins hearing arguments in the first of two cases regarding same-sex marriage.
Tomorrow's case is on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages. On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in another case challenging a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. (Need a primer on the cases? Read this.)
Across the country, marriage equality advocates are planning vigils to mark the cause. In Pittsburgh, there will be a vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday, at the Federal County Courthouse, 700 Grant St. Downtown.
The vigil is being led by Marriage Equality for Southwestern PA.
Joshua Adam Szczesny, Co-Founder of Marriage Equality for PA, says that the movement for marriage equality in the state has expanded to 13 chapters. ME4PA willl hold vigils and actions on Tuesday and Wednesday. ME4PA, he says, is working on the grassroots organizing behind mounting a campaign for statewide marriage rights.
"It's going to depend on the Supreme Court cases," he says. "If we get a favorable ruling, it'll make it a lot easier to challenge in Pennsylvania courts."
Szczesny acknowledges there is work to be done. After all, lawmakers haven't been able to muster enough votes to pass a bill that protects from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity. But there's reason to be hopeful; the state General Assembly's Equality Caucus has more than doubled this year. It's also up in the polls; one poll earlier this month reported that support for same-sex marriage has increased by 14 points in the last year and a half. Activists like Szczesny are hoping the movement will be buoyed by such shifts.
"I don't know how it'll shape out — opposition is fierce," Szczesny says. "But the public opinion shift has been huge."
Members of Pittsburgh's LGBT community are planning to rally at 3 p.m. Sunday near the South Side bar Rizzo's Margaritaville, at 2200 E. Carson St., in response to an attack last week against a woman who identifies as a "stud" — women who present as men.
JourDyn Cartel, 25, says she was with about a dozen friends at the bar at around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 17, when an unknown man who had expressed uneasiness with her and another in her group who identified as a stud, confronted her and then punched her in the face with a closed fist.
A member of Cartel's group went to her defense, and more people got involved. A few tossed beer bottles, according to witnesses. After the bar's security responded by closing the bar and evicting all the patrons, the original aggressor and at least one other man attacked Cartel and her friends again on the sidewalk.
Cartel suffered a broken nose and a fractured eye socket and was treated at a nearby hospital the next day, she says. At least one other in the group suffered minor injuries and an employee of the bar was also injured but not hospitalized, according to Brad Rizzo, the bar's manager, according to PLCB records.
Pittsburgh Police are investigating the incident and plan to have a presence at the rally, according to Bureau Spokeswoman Diane Richard.
Sunday's rally is intended to bring awareness to both the attack and the bar's lack of assistance in diffusing the situation, organizers say.
"These were straight guys beating up gay people," Cartel says.
Tonyarae Berry, 31, a self-identified stud who was with Cartel that evening says the unknown men were clearly uncomfortable with her and Cartel, although there was no warning that it would escalate. She says one of the men took offense each time she or Cartel came near him, telling them not to touch him. Other members of their party were able to pass the men without a confrontation.
"We weren't bothering anybody. It's not like we were hitting on the girls they were with or anything," says Berry, who says she was the designated driver that night. "The whole incident was unwarranted. I don't feel like there was a reason."
Twenty-nine-year-old Fausta Andrade, who was also there that evening, says Sunday's rally is intended to show support for Cartel and raise awareness of the incident.
"This is something that is still a problem in the community. People are homophobic and angry. It took me for a shock," she says.
Rizzo says the fight in the bar was unfortunate, and that he believes he knows who the aggressors were. He's says he's tried to reach out to those organizing the rally, but has not talked to them yet.
"I do believe I have some information that may help. But no one has returned my calls," he says.
He says he has taken steps to prevent future incidents, adding extra security and prohibiting beer bottles. Alcohol will be served only in plastic cups now, he says.
"I just hope everyone is OK," Rizzo says.
The "Sex, Drag & Rock and Roll" drag queen contest will feature a slew of entertainers.
The event takes place Fri., Jan. 8. Doors at 6, show starts at 7 p.m, at Cattivo, 146 44th St., Lawrenceville.
The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments for two same-sex marriage cases on March 26 and 27.
On the 26th, arguments will be made in Hollingsworth v. Perry challenging California's Proposition 8. On the 27th, the court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing such marriages for purpose of determining tax bills, health benefits or other rights and responsibilities straight couples take for granted.
Need a primer on what the Court will be looking at? Check out this guide from the moderate think tank Third Way in Washington, D.C.
Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the pride of Cranberry, has announced he will pursue legislation that will define marriage as between a man and a woman in the state's constitution, again.
In a memorandum sent to House members yesterday, Metcalfe said his constitutional amendment will "eliminate confusion as to what constitutes a legal marriage, and it will also designate marriage as the only type of union that will be legally recognized in Pennsylvania."
"It is important that we support traditional marriage and have constitutional amendments to protect it at the state level. Marriage is a common good, not a special interest," he wrote in his memo. "Special interests should not have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."
Pennsylvania already has its own Defense of Marriage Act. Meanwhile, the 2012 General Election has been touted as a banner day for LGBT rights and marriage equality, with same-sex marriage winning at the ballot box in four states. And more and more polls and studies show that marriage equality is gaining ground.
Equality Pennsylvania, the state's LGBT advocacy organization, issued a call to arms last evening via email, noting they had stopped similar legislation from Metcalfe last year.
"In 2013, we intend a repeat performance if this ugly and mean-spirited proposal rears its head," Ted Martin, Equality Pennsylvania's executive director said in the email. "That’s our guarantee."
Equality Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania's LGBT-rights advocacy organization, released a statement this afternoon after the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would hear two cases on marriage equality, saying advocates must not "lose sight of the work that will continue at state level."
Pennsylvania has remained a generally unfriendly state legislatively to LGBT residents: It has its own Defense of Marriage Act; lawmakers have failed to enact a proposed statewide anti-discrimination ordinance multiple times, and Republican legislators have previously attempted to end domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples in the state.
Ted Martin, the group's executive director, was meeting with other LGBT organizations in Chicago today to learn how to run successful issue campaigns.
Here's an excerpt from Equality Pennsylvania's statement (you can view the entire statement on their Facebook page):
"In Pennsylvania where LGBT citizens lack even the most basic civil rights protections against discrimination and are certainly denied the right to marry, our work is constant and any opportunity to learn and collaborate will strengthen our mission and ultimately help to create a better state. Today’s decision by the US Supreme Court certainly highlights both the hope and the heat around LGBT issues. Rest assured, Equality Pennsylvania is powered by the former and willing to work through the (sic) later."
The Supreme Court of the United States announced today it will hear two cases related to same-sex marriage.
According to SCOTUSblog, which live-blogs Supreme Court hearings and actions, the court will rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in California, and the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing such marriages for purpose of determining tax bills, health benefits or other rights and responsibilities straight couples take for granted. According to SCOTUSblog, arguments are expected at the end of March with a possible decision by the end of June.
We'll follow this as it develops. In the meantime, check this previous story we ran on some of the things the court may consider.
Mrs. Harris may not have broken voting rules, but she definitely wore her Wagner regalia…
According to county records, Harris did NOT vote in the primary.
According to county records, Harris did NOT vote this Tuesday.