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The Pennsylvania Progressive

The Pittsburgh Queer Perspective on Dan Onorato

by: John Morgan

Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 21:23:00 PM EDT

This is a guest article by Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

I've been asked by progressives in Eastern PA to contribute a guest blog post. So I'm going to share the queer perspective on Dan Onorato you might not hear from the gay Onorato supporters who have the resources to travel across the state to attend house parties.

For the past four   years I've been blogging about Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. I cover political, cultural, and a wide range of general interest topics. I've contributed to Pam's House Blend and Lez Get Real. I recently spearheaded the second "Blog for Equality" around yet another attempt to amend Pennsylvania's constitution to protect marriage for the LGBTQ community (as I write this, the outcome of the Judiciary Committee vote is yet unknown).  Over 20 bloggers, gay and straight alike, contributed thoughts both political and personal on an issue that resonates across the Commonwealth.

The gay establishment in Pittsburgh considers me divisive because I openly talk about how the institutions in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County fail to lead when it comes to LGBTQ issues here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  I'm generally considered a pain in the ass because I talk and talk and talk about LGBTQ issues which in SW Pennsylvania translate into a lot of admonishing of institutions that fail to lead when we need them. I also like to complicate things by bringing up issues around class, socioeconomic status, gender, race, and so forth.


John Morgan :: The Pittsburgh Queer Perspective on Dan Onorato
Given the above, this is my queer perspective on candidate Dan Onorato, currently Chief Executive of Allegheny County. First, the good news about Mr. Onorato. He signed the Allegheny County Non-Discrimination into law in 2009.

Unfortunately, that's all I've got folks. Mr. Onorato has been in office for nearly 20 years, including six at the helm of the County and I can give you one concrete example of positive support for our community.

It is certainly not for lack of opportunity.

As County Chief Executive, Mr. Onorato had six years to take action. At no point was the creation of a Human Relations Commission on his radar. When the ordinance was introduced in July 2008, it took him until April 2009 to issue a statement of support. I will give him points for attending the signing ceremony!  

Yes, I've been told he was working behind the scenes. But that's easy to say and difficult to prove. He didn't come to a January 2009 rally that turned out nearly a dozen other elected officials in support of the ordinance. He didn't respond to questions about it submitted to his cyber town halls.  

Mr Onorato undoubtably touts the County Non-Discrimination ordinance as a sign of his progressive credentials. That would be more credible had he been a leader on this issue, rather than remaining silent for 10 long months. It would also be more credible if he took care of his own house and put domestic partner benefits in place for his team.

The most glaring example of an Onorato leadership fail has been the fact that Allegheny County employees do not have domestic partner benefits. As noted above, Mr. Onorato is not a new County executive; he has been at the helm of county government for six year. During that six years he has not once mentioned offering County employees domestic partner benefits or even mentioned that he wanted to do so but was unable. Six years at the helm and Onorato has steadfastly refused to take action. Yes, it is a complicated negotiation with labor unions involving fair labor practice standards. Still I maintain that he lacked the political will to expend his political capital to make this happen. The Cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia made it happen. The State of Pennsylvania made it happen.   Even the Court system has made it happen.

Domestic partner benefits are not a very controversial topic in terms of LGBTQ issues. This is precisely why a failure on this issue is a very important indicator of a candidate's sincerity as an ally. A letter of support in 2009 does not an LGBT ally make.

The last time I heard him publicly speak on LGBT issues, Mr. Onorato took refuge behind his "good Catholic boy" upbringing.  This was his justification for coming along so slowly on LGBTQ issues. That translates as someone who will always play it safe when it comes to our civil rights. In spite of his words, his record does not suggest he would extend his "good Catholic neck" on HB 300, hate crimes protections or other statewide issues that require strong allies to help our community step out of second class status.

His position on choice affirms my belief. Mr. Onorato is anti-choice, but crosses his heart that he won't take action to change Pennsylvania's legal status quo for women's reproductive status. That is pandering, not leadership. Pennsylvania's women and girls deserve better.

It is all well and good to acknowledge that some "good Catholic boy" politicians need to take baby steps, but that's not an acceptable mentality from the Governor.

Pennsylvania's LGBT community deserves an ally who believes that we are equal citizens in this Commonwealth. We are realistic enough to recognize that it will be an upward battle to gain our equal rights, but we deserve more decisive action than Dan Onorato has brought to the table in the past twenty years.

For the record, I'm supporting Joe Hoeffel and I believe you'll find many LGBTQ persons in Southwestern Pennsylvania follow suit.

Sue Kerr

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

From John:  I've known Joe Hoeffel since he ran for the U.S. Senate six years ago.  I know his unflinching support for the LGBT community.  Joe never shies away from the fact he is pro choice and supports equal rights.  In fact he makes sure to speak about these issues at every opportunity.   He is a leader and he deserves our support.  Wednesday evening his campaign has invited LGBT leaders for a conference in Philadelphia.  Not many candidates do that.  I'm not sure I can attend because I wake up very early Thursday mornings to do Democratic Talk Radio.  The fact they are even having such a conversation tells you where Joe Hoeffel stands.  He stands with us.

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I've been wondering what western pa LGBT activists thought (0.00 / 0)
I'm very happy to hear from a loud LGBT activist from the west side of the state informing us on the Onorato that she has been watching.  On the east side, these LGBT activists, and many with loud voices, are supporting Onorato and believe he's for LGBT equality.  At the PA Summit here in Harrisburg, I had a chance to ask Onorato if he would veto a bill that would repeal our DOMA law.  When he didn't answer I pressed him for some sort of social, economic, or justice need to deny my marriage.  He tried the trick to have his staff interrupt me, but I'm aware of that trick, so I kept pressing him.  Finally, to the question of would he veto my marriage, he said, "You know where I stand."  This followed a question during the interview where he said he supports civil unions but not civil marriage.  He then suggested that we have to agree to disagree.  I said, "No, we don't."

I've worked with many LGBT activists from many gay or gay allied groups, and I'm just sick to be told, "We like Hoeffel best, he's certainly strongest on all positions we believe in, but we can't vote for him because he can't win."  AARRRGGGG !!!!  He CAN win.  He needs to stick to his ideas, and not water them down with bipartisanship (look at that lovely health bill that got watered down to nothing but expensive welfare... doing nothing to combat any real problems... bit I digress).  Pa is a democratic progressive state and we do vote for far left democrats (Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Ed Rendell).

These LGBT activist friends of mine insist that only a non-partisan legislator can win.  Well, I think they misunderstand what citizens want regarding non-partisan.  It doesn't mean that citizens want somebody in the middle who doesn't stand for anything, citizens want a governor who stands for our issues, but won't vote no just to vote no since it's not in his party lines (which really doesn't carry much weight as a governor anyway).  So while the progressive left are playing nice and compromising, the right moves more right and drags us along.

I really hope these LGBT people get a bit more LGBT oriented.  They might as well be log cabin republicans, I mean, really, what is so democratic about Onorato, what separates him from Corbett?  If you're independent, or don't follow your party, why bother going out to vote if it's Onorato vs. Corbett?

Something to remember about (0.00 / 0)
some of our so called "leaders:"  they support whomever their Party Chair tells them too irregardless of that candidate's positions on the issues.  That's the trouble with machine politics.

Follow me on Twitter:  JohnPMorgan

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