Central PA's LGBT News Source

Reflections

Ted talks about civil rights and the gay Trump vote

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Ted Martin is a native Pennsylvanian and a longtime activist and non-profit professional. Martin has worked in several varied administrative and communications capacities over the past two decades.  Most recently executive director of Equality PA for seven years, Martin reflects on the state of LGBT affairs for The Central Voice.

Central Voice: What do you think of as your accomplishments while serving as executive director of Equality PA?

Ted Martin: Serving as Executive Director of Equality PA was exhilarating, exhausting, eye-opening, fun, sometimes brutal and disappointing, and always an honor.  This type of work is not for the faint of heart.  In my seven years, I point to passage of 22 local nondiscrimination ordinances throughout Pennsylvania as a great victory.  Working with citizen advocates to make their towns a place where it’s against the law to fire an LGBT person, or refuse them housing or a public accommodation, just felt good and was the right thing to do.  I also think that working behind the scenes to make sure Governor Corbett didn’t appeal the marriage decision was a remarkable moment.  While I give all credit to the ACLU for winning marriage equality in the courts, people forget that had the governor chosen to appeal the decision in the courts, marriage equality would have been far slower to arrive in Pennsylvania.  We worked quietly and relentlessly behind the scenes with him and when Governor Corbett called me to say he wasn’t going to appeal the decision because of our efforts, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

Also, I’m proud that Equality PA’s efforts influenced PennDOT to change their gender marker policy for driver’s licenses in 2010.  Partnering with TransCentral PA in this effort, that work allowed transgender Pennsylvanians to ensure that their gender marker matched their authentic selves, and that small change impacted thousands of people in a positive way.  

Finally, the work that Equality PA has done with Governor Wolf has been nothing short of groundbreaking.  Pennsylvania state programming is now more fair and open to members of the LGBT community than ever before because when Tom Wolf became governor, he listened to our recommendations and established the LGBT Interagency Workgroup.  That group (chaired ably by former Equality PA board member and now Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine) has worked tirelessly to make sure every state agency is addressing the needs of LGBT Pennsylvanians and doing everything they can to be fair and inclusive.  That workgroup, now part of a full-blown Commission on LGBTQ Affairs --- another Equality PA recommendation incorporated by Governor Wolf, and the first in the nation --- is set to continue doing great things for thousands of people.

CV: What’s been the hold up with Pennsylvania passing an amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s charter that would provide LGBT taxpayers basic civil rights and protections?

TM: It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying.  In 2015-16, Equality PA helped to round-up nearly 100 cosponsors of both parties in support of the nondiscrimination legislation.  It was the largest cosponsor list for this legislation ever.  Poll after poll shows the public thinks it is the right thing to do.  Several Pennsylvania Governors of both parties have stated their support.  We brought the largest employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC, and many other businesses onboard as public supporters of the legislation because it was good economic development.  Equality PA was the driving force behind creation of the LGBT Equality Caucus in the Pennsylvania legislature, and they have worked tirelessly to educate and to pass the nondiscrimination legislation. Governor Wolf has voiced strong support for it. I really wish I could pinpoint the reluctance.  To be frank, not passing that legislation is one of the most bitter disappointments of my life. 

CV: What is your reaction to PA State Rep. Brian Sims commenting that he thinks there are about a dozen gay members of the legislature?

TM: Rep. Sims knows his colleagues far better than I do.  However, I really wish we’d move past this question.  It’s a parlor game at best, and no one really will ever know for certain.  I wish the numbers people really concentrated on were those related to how many calls or emails or letters or visits a legislator receives telling them to move nondiscrimination legislation.  Or the number of legislators in the LGBT Equality Caucus.  Or the number of LGBT people running for office.  Those are the numbers that really matter.

CV: Estimates are that about 20-25% of cis-gendered, white gay men and lesbians voted for President Trump. Is economic and social privilege a layer of protection not available to less well-heeled LGBT individuals?  

TM: Absolutely. LGBT people are impacted by bad policy and economic inequality just like everyone else.  Most importantly, elections have consequences.  If you’re simply happy that your pockets are fuller while others less fortunate struggle to achieve equal rights, you are choosing to ignore what America is supposed to be all about.  

CV: What is your biggest fear for the LGBT community?

TM: That as we find ourselves being more and more a part of the fabric of everyday life that we somehow forget that we ARE unique.  That we forget to have fun.  That we no longer show the joy that comes with being LGBT.  That would be tragic.  There’s a balance to be struck, and we don’t have to give up being our queer and transgender selves to get there.  

CV: What is your biggest joy for the LGBT community?

TM: That in so many instances our lives are regarded with nonchalance and simply as a part of the fabric of life.  I love being able to say “Husband” with the casual abandon that only comes from a greater acceptance.  I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see and witness this in my lifetime.  That’s a gift.  Far, far, far too many people were denied that simple dignity.  

CV: Add anything you think is important.

TM: Pennsylvania, the veritable birthplace of American liberty, remains the ONLY state in the Northeast where you can legally fire an LGBT person or deny them housing or a public accommodation.  In the 21st century, that is simply wrong.  

About Ted Martin

Starting his career as a legislative assistant and the deputy chief of staff of a subcommittee of the Education and Labor Committee of the US House of Representatives, Martin has subsequently worked in the field of architectural preservation, communications and marketing and economic development. He is also volunteers and serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations. Martin was named a Person of the Year by the Philadelphia Gay News and has also been recognized with a Peacemaker in Our Midst Award by the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.  He and his husband, Dwayne, reside in Camp Hill outside of Harrisburg and were married on June 19, 2008 in La Jolla, California.