Pittsburgh LGBTQ political advocacy group announces primary election endorsements | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh LGBTQ political advocacy group announces primary election endorsements

The Pittsburgh region's biggest LGBTQ political group has weighed in on several state and federal races for the 2020 season. And in a state that consistently ranks in the bottom tier for LGBTQ rights, the decisions on which candidates who will champion LGBTQ causes are crucial. 

On Sunday, the Steel City Stonewall Democrats (SCSD) announced their endorsements of local candidates ahead of the April 28 primary election in Pennsylvania. The organization advocates for candidates with strong stances on LGBTQ issues. Candidates seeking the endorsement fill out a questionnaire about their stance on various LGBTQ issues and legislation.

“At a time when LGBTQ+ justice has won mainstream support within the Democratic Party, we reject the notion that our movement ended with marriage equality,” says Mark Ptak, media chair of SCSD. “From fighting to end the violence experienced by trans women of color, to working with Allegheny Council to finally ban conversion therapy, to promoting the availability of PrEP and inclusive health care, our focus today is ensuring that our most vulnerable communities have a voice to keep candidates and politicians accountable.”


The endorsements include Democratic state Reps. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville), Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty), and Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill). Openly gay candidate Dan Smith (D-Adams) picked up the SCSD endorsement, as he hopes to unseat homophobic state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry).

The endorsements also included some contested state House contests between Democrats for seats in the Mon Valley, the North Hills and Pittsburgh's North Side.  Incumbent state Rep. Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) received SCSD's backing over her challenger Chris Roland (D-North Braddock), who also sought the endorsement. In HD-19, state Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District) picked up the SDSC endorsement over perennial challenger Aerion Abney (D-Manchester).

In PA state House District 30 in the North Hills, Marco Attisano (D-O'Hara) got the endorsement over Lissa Schulman (D-Hampton). The two are vying to challenge incumbent state Rep. Lori Mizgorski (R-Shaler) in November. SDSC endorsed first-time candidate Jessica Benham (D-South Side), running in PA state House District 36, over challenger Heather Kass (D-Carrick).

Candidate Emily Kinkead (D-North Side) was the only challenger to receive the endorsement over an incumbent Democrat who also sought the endorsement, state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl (D-North Side).
For the U.S. House of Representatives, SCSD endorsed incumbent U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon) and Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills). Lamb is the only Democrat on the ticket for his district, but has a Republican challenger in Sean Parnell, a frequent guest on Fox News. Doyle has a challenger in Democratic candidate Jerry Dickinson, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, who is slightly to the left of Doyle on some issues.


Pittsburgh city Controller Micheal Lamb (D-Mount Washington) was endorsed for his race for state auditor general.

The full list of endorsements can be found on SCSD’s Twitter and Facebook page.

SCSD, a local branch of a national coalition of similar organizations, gets its name from the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar that became an important location for LGBTQ activism in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s process for endorsements includes a questionnaire with an accompanied filing fee, and voting from the organization’s membership, who convened on Sun., Feb. 9 to vote on which candidates would receive endorsements. Candidates are invited to the endorsement meeting to make the case for their endorsement.

“The past four years have been a setback for us at the national level, but we’re here to remind those running for office that we’re not a vote to be taken for granted if we’re going to close this chapter on far-right bigotry and corruption,” says Ptak. “The LGBTQ+ community extends across black, brown, Jewish, and Muslim communities bearing the brunt of an explosion in hate crimes, and refugees turned away at the border despite fleeing homophobic and transphobic violence.”

The questionnaire included a question asking whether or not candidates support banning conversion therapy, legislation prohibiting the “panic defense” in court (in which perpetrators of violence use as a defense the shock of learning about a victim’s gender or sexuality), and easier access to PrEP, a drug that helps prevent HIV.


“We’re fortunate to have an incredible slate of endorsed candidates – several of whom are openly queer – ready to take up that fight,” says Ptak, “and we’re ready to do everything in our power to make this a watershed election year for pro-equality Democrats.”

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