Decades ago, I’m on the horn with James Carville. Yeah, that Carville.
I’m arranging a private satellite broadcast of a debate between his candidate Robert Casey, Sr. (who was Pennsylvania’s governor from 1987-1994) and William Scranton, Jr. (whose father William was Pennsylvania’s governor from 1963 to 1967). Got all that? Good. Because we don’t teach history or civics anymore. That’s how the 1% keeps the 99% fighting with each other. That way they stay in power. We stay disenfranchised.
It was that Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign that prompted Carville to say: Between Paoli and Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is Alabama without the blacks. They didn't film The Deer Hunter there for nothing – the state has the second-highest concentration of NRA members, behind Texas. This quote is often paraphrased as "Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle."
Either way, you get the point? Right?
So now let’s look at where Pennsylvania ended up on the 2019 State Equality Index issued by the Human Rights Campaign.
Along with Pennsylvania, 27 other states were placed in the lowest-rated category High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality. Those states are Bada Bing Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Virginia; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
A parallel HRC report called the Municipal Equality Index noted capital city Harrisburg’s score on their 2019 evaluation of protections dropped 12 points to a score of 69. For 2018, the city’s score was 81. Harrisburg’s score last round was the lowest of 10 Pennsylvania municipalities in the index.
In fairness, please note that in 1983, Harrisburg passed a local ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the first Pennsylvania city to extend non-discrimination protections for transgender people. The ordinance actually created the city’s Human Relations Commission which included other protected groups in its charter.
Again, I ask: Got all that? Good. Because democracy and creating change is messy, complicated. It only works if we stay engaged. Please stay engaged.
So, if Mom was right we’ll be judged by the company we keep.
And here’s the hilarious part about the disturbing lack of basic civil rights for the Keystone State’s taxpaying queers. We all know there are queers in the General Assembly. And I don’t mean Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta or Rep. Brian Sims. They’re not hiding. They’re Manly-Men.
But, consider this.
The Central Voice reported July 18, 2019 that Sims told The Advocate “I serve with over a dozen closeted members, whom I would never identify to anybody else, and when I joined the legislature, many of them were co-sponsors of anti-LGBT bills.”
And, think about this.
Kenyatta told CV that when he talks to his legislative colleagues, he finds support expressed verbally “but then I find no action, no follow through.” I know what you’re thinking. Does he mean some of the same legislators Sims alleges are in the closet? Way back in there where they keep the shoes, as one friend says. Like anyone cares except them.
In 2017, Republican representative Daryl Metcalfe insinuated that fellow lawmaker, Democrat Matt Bradford, is gay after Bradford touched his sleeve to get his attention.
“Look, I’m a heterosexual,” Metcalfe sneered. “I have a wife, I love my wife, I don’t like men, as you might, but don’t, stop touching me all the time."
“It’s like, keep your hands to yourself. Like, if you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it, I don’t.”
Despite outcry from both sides of the aisle at Metcalfe’s gay panic moment, the legislator refused to apologize. Bradford is married to a woman and has four children.
Metcalfe is best-known in the state for his vociferous attacks on LGBT people and Sims in particular.
“You can’t make this stuff up! The most homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, xenophobic member of our government is using legislative time, and tax payer dollars, to interrupt [sic] a meeting to announce his sexual orientation,” Sims wrote in a Facebook post.
“THIS is what dealing with Republicans in Pennsylvania has become. THIS is why they’re attacking our youngest and most vulnerable members of the LGBT community. THIS is what a broken moral compass, combined with gerrymandered, false leadership looks like,” he added.
The question is How much longer will queer taxpayers be taxed without proper representation? Will the company we keep be the 27 other states with no civil rights protections?