Musings of an Intern: Introduction and York Town Hall Meetings

October 22, 2007

First, I feel as though I should introduce myself: My name is Aidan and I am the outreach intern for the fall  semester. This is my first time living in Pennsylvania and I have been interning with Equality Advocates for a little over a month. This week’s installment of my musings is on my first adventure outside the office: the York Town Hall meeting.

 Me!(Aren’t I Fabulous?)

On Wednesday, October 10, Jake and I set out on our trip through the beautiful and corn-filled country side of Pennsylvania. We made our way out of Philadelphia and drove west into the sun.

 (Jake dancing it up)

The town hall meeting in York was a time for discussion on the importance of House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761. This legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to include protections against discrimination of LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

I have to give props to the organizers of the event, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Value all Families Coalition; namely Andy Hoover for his wonderful organization of the event and Larry Frankel for speaking and being on hand to answer questions. The event started with Larry Frankel’s debriefing of the HB 1400 hearings that took place earlier in Pittsburgh and Erie. Representatives Nickol (R) and DePasquale (D), both co-sponsors of HB 1400, spoke next about their support of the bill. Rep. Nickol spoke eloquently about how he came to an understanding of the need for this bill through face-to-face discussions with LGBT people and their experiences with discrimination.

  (Rep. Nickol)

Rep. DePasquale discussed his easy decision to support HB 1400. To paraphrase, the bill’s importance is apparent because everyone, whether LGBT or not, should be free from discrimination. Both Representatives agreed that there is still much work to be done on both sides, Democrat and Republican, to ensure successful passage of the bills.

 (Rep. DePasquale)

Andy Hoover then took the mic to introduce the panel of speakers: Steve Glassman, Chair of the PA Human Relations Commission; Rabbi Carl Chopper, from the Interfaith Alliance of PA; Rev. Sandy Strauss, from the PA Council of Churches; and Dan Miller, openly gay Harrisburg City Councilman.

Steve Glassman gave a passionate explanation about the importance of the two bills and how they would be integrated into the existing PHRA. He also spoke about the national Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and its possible ramifications on HB 1400 and SB 761. 

Both Rabbi Chopper and Rev. Strauss spoke compellingly about people of faith and the necessity that those people stand with the LGBT community. This discussion is one of great importance in understanding that people of faith and the LGBT community can work together for social change throughout Pennsylvania. Rabbi Chopper emphasized the idea, “to work is to live”; without work there is no life, only forced poverty. God’s word is of love, and not hate was the message of both speakers.

Finally, Dan Miller gave testimony to the necessity of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the PHRA by speaking openly about his own experience of employment discrimination. He stressed that though he went through great hardship, he was lucky enough to have the support he needed to make it through, while others may have little or none.

The event ended with time for questions from the audience about specific parts of the PHRA such as its religious exemption and its possible effects on LGBT youth within foster care.

 (Steve Glassman)

The York Town Hall meeting was a great experience and wonderfully informative. Thank you to all those who spoke, Andy Hoover and Larry Frankel, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Value All Families Coalition for an excellent event.

As the night ended, Jake and I went on our way back through the countryside taking in the culture of Route 30…

That’s it til’ next time,

Aidan


Moving Beyond the Cities

October 21, 2007

This past week I got to spend some time in the western half of the state, meeting a lot of our coalition partners to better collaborate on advocacy efforts as the non-discrimination bill makes its way through the statehouse. On the heels of amazingly successful hearings on the bill in Pittsburgh, local activists were fired up and engaged to see the bill passed this session.

My trip culminated in an event organized by PERSAD Center in Washington County, about an hour south of Pittsburgh. Washington is a beautiful town—a small city center, gorgeous landscapes, and, yes, a community of LGBT and allied folks working to make their town more open and accepting.

PERSAD Center received a $10,000 donation from Comcast in support of their outreach work outside Pittsburgh and I spoke and took questions about how people can more effectively advocate for LGBT-friendly legislation here in Pennsylvania. About 30 people attended the event and left energized and excited to make a difference.

For me, these are my favorite types of event. Go to the middle of nowhere and turn right— that’s where we were, and that’s where we’re making inroads. Although 14 municipalities in the state protect LGBT people from discrimination, 80% of people in Pennsylvania ARE NOT COVERED. People in Washington ARE NOT COVERED. The fight for LGBT equality has moved beyond Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Thank you so much to PERSAD for inviting me and having me speak. The event was amazing and truly inspirational.

PERSAD Center Washington County event

(That’s me, obviously, with the Comcast ladies and Betty Hill, Executive Director of PERSAD)


NEW! Youth Law Project

October 12, 2007

In September 2007, Equality Advocates launched a new project — the Youth Law Project. This project provides direct legal services, advocacy, education and outreach to children and youth affected by anti-LGBT bias in Pennsylvania. The Project Attorney, Katie Stewart, received funding from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP to implement this project.

The Youth Law Project serves both LGBTQ youth (up to age 25) and LGBT families with children across Pennsylvania. This project will provide a whole range of legal services and education to LGBTQ youth and families.

Here are some examples of our services: (1) Legal advice to LGBTQ youth in schools who are facing harassment or discrimination; (2) Legal representation (as a child advocate) for LGBTQ youth in foster care in Philadelphia; (3) Helping LGBT parents secure second-parent adoptions of their partners’ children; (4) Legal workshops for LGBTQ youth at community centers or Gay Straight Alliances; (5) Legal education for allies who support LGBTQ youth and families; (6) Advocacy for policy reform on issues affecting children and youth in the LGBT community; AND much, much more!

Are you an LGBTQ youth or family? We can give you free, sensitive legal help if you are facing anti-LGBT bias, harassment, abuse or discrimination at home, in school, in foster care, at work, or in your community.

Are you an ally or service provider for LGBTQ youth and families? We can give you legal advice and information to help you better support children and youth in the LGBT community. We also welcome your ideas about how we can collaborate to improve the lives of LGBT youth and families.

Just call our legal hotline at:

(215) 731-1447 ext. 15 or (866) LGBT-LAW

Hope to hear from you soon!