Central PA's LGBT News Source


PA is up the 'Amazon' for new headquarters

Mar/Apr 2018


By Frank Pizzoli

No surprise on this one.

Amazon’s headquarters selection has spawned a national campaign called No Gay? No Way!  

The aim of the campaign is to get Amazon to reject any bid from a city competing for the company’s second headquarters if it is located in a state that lacks statewide LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.

The No Gay? No Way! campaign asks Amazon not to build its second headquarters in 11 of the 20 finalist cities or regions that are in states that don’t have anti-discrimination laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Pennsylvania is on the list, casting a shadow on the state’s two finalists: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Harrisburg also applied, one of 238 applicants.

Why a shadow?

Pennsylvania has no basic LGBT civil rights protections.

Why would Amazon select a Northeast state like Pennsylvania surrounded by states with basic LGBT civil rights laws already in place? They wouldn’t.

As far back as 2006, The Central Voice published a story “Economic Development’s Secret Weapon - Gay People” by Ted Martin. His story focused on economist Richard Florida’s new book at the time The Rise of the Creative Class.

“The key to understanding America’s technological and economic vibrancy lies in our openness to new people and ideas,” Florida told USA Today on his book tour. “Tolerance of immigrants, gays and other minorities is much more important to sustained economic growth and high-paying jobs than the tax cut President Bush has in mind.” Or the tax cut President Trump just issued?

“When you look at the creative class, as Florida calls it, one of the things you see in these very high-skilled, high-paying job clusters is tolerance,” Jon Talton said in an interview with LGBTQ Nation. He’s an economics columnist at the Seattle Times, in Amazon’s hometown.

“Places with the least tolerance tend not to get these assets,” Talton said.

No asset like Amazon coming to Pennsylvania.

Our General assembly sees change as the enemy. With no luck, basic LGBT civil rights legislation has been introduced every year for about 15 years. But who’s counting? Well, Amazon and many big companies. They simply want the pick of the best when it comes to employees. And that includes some LGBT folks who are the best at what Amazon needs (not because they’re queer).

If Amazon examined Pennsylvania’s recent headlines around LGBT issues, what would they find?

The last Queer Blast in Pennsylvania was Dec. 6 of last year when House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe went on a homophobic rant against minority Chairman Matt Bradford, who briefly touched Metcalfe’s arm during a committee meeting, according to a news release from Equality PA and SEIU, a union.

Among other things, Metcalfe said, “Representative Bradford, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might. But stop touching me all the time.” Later, he said, “It’s like, keep your hands to yourself. Like, if you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle that might like it. I don’t.”

Maybe a fellow Republican ought to pull him aside – without touching him – to explain some basic Republican values on economics. Explain what’s at stake in terms of jobs and economic development. All the values Republicans hold dear.

Not wasting any time running backwards, Pennsylvania recently came up bas-akwards again on the tolerance thing.

In mid-January, Rep. Metcalfe along with 25 other State Representatives sent a letter to Governor Wolf urging him to rescind the policy update that provides for Pennsylvania birth certificates to include gender neutral language for noted parents.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated the birth certificate forms to include spaces for one or two “Parents”, rather than the gendered language of “Mother” and “Father”. The change, started under Gov. Tom Corbett, is gender inclusive as it makes these forms accessible to couples of the same gender and those parents who do not identify along a gender binary. In the past, for example, a lesbian couple would have to put (as able) one parent name in the “Father” designation.

Metcalfe and 25 other elected officials disagreed with the change. That doesn’t sound tolerant of new ideas.

If Pennsylvania doesn’t soon change – on LGBT issues and so many other 21st Century needs - under the leadership of the General Assembly, who’s going to turn out the lights when the last shift ends? The dinosaurs refusing to leave?