Central PA's LGBT News Source
By Frank Pizzoli
While the region ramped up for the July 29 Pride Festival of PA, two days earlier President Donald Trump announced three actions thwarting recent advances made by the LGBT community.
At the event, held along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, attendees said about his actions, “Thank you President Trump for bringing the LGBT community together.”
Pride Festival of Central PA officials are initially calculating that official attendance on July 29 will be record-breaking. Please click here to see snapshots from the event.
July 27 began with Trump tweeting that transgender individuals could not serve in the US Armed Forces "in any capacity".
Also announced July 27 was that the day before the US Justice Department intervened in a private employment lawsuit, arguing that the ban on sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect workers on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Finally, on July 27 Trump announced his nomination of Sam Brownback, the governor of Kansas and a vocal opponent of gay rights, to be the nation’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
Administration officials called the timing of the three actions “coincidental”
At first attendees were reluctant to put their reactions on record. Not until the ninth person – or organization – asked by Central Voice to comment on the week’s events did someone, literally, step up to the microphone.
“I think it is certainly challenging. All of our fears seem to be coming to light. We’ve fought really hard to be where we’re at but unfortunately we’re starting to see some it unravel which is certainly a challenge,” Harry Young, president, Central PA Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, told Central Voice.
“For us as a community, we’ve just got to stick together. To continue to fight for advances we’ve already made and some of which we’ve lost already. We need to remain united,” Young said.
Later, one local person who had initially declined comment said, “It’s tiring. Trump doesn’t stop. Whether it’s gay issues or other things, he makes worn out out,” she said.
“It’s been an utter disaster. I think it shows how Trump has no interest in serving the LGBT community at all,” Harrisburg City Councilman Ben Allatt said.
“What’s happening across the country is despicable and we need to elect folks who better represent us,” said Andrew Guth, representing Stonewall Democrats, a local political organization.
“President Trump said he would be the best friend the LGBT community ever had. His actions from Inauguration Day until this moment have indicated anything but that,” Joanne Carroll, president, TransCentralPA told Central Voice. Carroll is a 20-year Air Force veteran.
“Yesterday was this administration’s anti-LGBT day,” James D. Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, told the New York Times. “Whether coordinated or not, to have it all happen on the same day certainly brings into focus the profoundly anti-LGBT agenda of this administration.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a socially conservative and Christian group, applauded Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from the military. Perkins, who has blamed extreme weather on the advancement of gay rights, recently had his home destroyed by the massive flooding ravaging Southern Louisiana.
Regarding the Justice Department challenge to employment protections, the Equal Employment & Opportunity Council, under the Obama Administration, sometimes said Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination should be interpreted as including protections based on sexual orientation. Disagreeing, the Justice Department submitting a legal brief into a private court case declaring that courts should not extend that protection to gays and lesbians.
Sam Brownback, now the nation’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, is a longtime opponent of gay marriage. As a senator, he pushed for a federal ban on same-sex marriage, and in 2015, as governor, he signed a broad executive order in Kansas prohibiting the state government from acting against religious groups that refuse to provide services to gay people.
“Yesterday, he went after everyone with a direct assault. He truly declared war on our community,” said Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign. “I promise you, this is a battle we are going to win.”
In a new political offensive, including Pennsylvania, HRC recently announced a proactive grassroots expansion called HRC Rising. “We will accelerate progress in states from coast-to-coast, resist the politics of hate, fight anti-LGBTQ legislation, and fuel pro-equality candidates and initiatives,” Griffin said.
“Our progress can easily be reversed. We cannot take anything for granted,” Brad Martin told Central Voice. He is president of Pride Festival of PA. “Even so, we must be a community that gathers to celebrate what we have accomplished. We must celebrate and appreciate each other.”