Central PA's LGBT News Source

Change does indeed happen

When we have a seat at the table

By Ben Allatt
Posted 1/4/18

Just over six years ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to “change the face and voice of America’s politics and achieve …

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Change does indeed happen

When we have a seat at the table

"The truth is that as a community, we need to remain engaged in the political process,” Harrisburg City Council member Ben Allatt tells Central Voice. He spoke at the annual Victory Fund conference with, from left, Brooke Sopelsa, Editorial Manager, NBC OUT; Annise Parker, former Mayor, Houston, TX; Allatt; LaWana Mayfield, City Council, Charlotte, NC; Robert Garcia, Mayor, Long Beach, CA
"The truth is that as a community, we need to remain engaged in the political process,” Harrisburg City Council member Ben Allatt tells Central Voice. He spoke at the annual Victory Fund conference with, from left, Brooke Sopelsa, Editorial Manager, NBC OUT; Annise Parker, former Mayor, Houston, TX; Allatt; LaWana Mayfield, City Council, Charlotte, NC; Robert Garcia, Mayor, Long Beach, CA
Posted

Just over six years ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to “change the face and voice of America’s politics and achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ officials at all levels of government.”
Elected leaders from around the world make the trip to the December annual conference to gather, to share stories, and to re-confirm why we do what we do on this journey towards equality.
I am proud to have been endorsed by the Victory Fund during each of my campaigns for Harrisburg City Council. Each time I attend the conference I come away feeling truly inspired and reassured that we can and are making a difference as a community.
After suffering several setbacks in the 2016 election cycle, the LGBTQ community came roaring back to make some historic wins in last month’s general election. Heading into this year’s election cycle, there were roughly 469 openly gay elected officials nationwide. After November’s election, that number has increased with a number of historic wins made by transgendered candidates, many who spoke at the conference to discuss how they won and celebrate their victories.
See Rainbows in the Voting Booth – LGBT Election Round Up – Central Voice web site link
Other out officials led discussions throughout the four-day conference as well.
US Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI), spoke of her long history of pushing for a more comprehensive approach to equality during a time when there were so few “out voices” at the table.
US Senator Cory Booker (NJ), a huge ally to the LGBTQ community, spoke about intersectionality and how an injustice to one group or community is an injustice to all communities and until we can see equal justice under the law for all communities our work is not done.
Danica Roam, now Virginia Delegate-elect, shared her journey and her inspiring message of how important it is to put in the work and knock on your doors and actually talk to people about what their wants and needs.
I am inspired and proud by the strides made across the country and even right here in PA with candidates stepping up to run for office and those winning seats in government.
While we are making great gains, it is humbling to know that there is much more work to be done to ensure that our government is more reflective of our communities. In fact, if government was truly reflected of the demographics of our communities, we would have over 21,307 LGBTQ elected officials across the country.
In order to make this change happen, we first need to be inspired by and support those who came before us and who are leading the movement across the country, including Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) who is embarking on a run for the US Senate in Arizona. Inspiration can also be found with more than six openly LGBTQ candidates from across the country looking to run for Congress in the next election cycle, potentially doubling the number of LGBTQ elected in Congress.
While federal elections tend to steal the spotlight, we cannot forget the direct impact that our local elections have and why they matter. In Pennsylvania, I am inspired by those who are running and winning at the local level. For instance, in just this past election cycle we had the following wins in Pennsylvania: Chris Deitz, president of Millersburg Boro Council; Glenn Paul Wascovich, newly elected Mayor of Hallam, in York County; and also Tyler Titus, the first transgendered candidate to win office in PA who, I might add, won a write-in campaign to serve on the Erie School Board.
In Susquehanna Township, we elected two out individuals to the school board, Jesse Gantt and Josie Byzek.
I am proud to stand amongst the leaders who are driving change across our state and across the nation.
The truth is that as a community, we need to remain engaged in the political process. One should never forget that each and every vote matters, but what is more important to the equality movement is actually stepping up to be part of the process.
Change happens when we have a seat at the table, and while our road to equality often seems mired in twists and turns, the achievements that have been made so far should never be forgotten. The key is to never become complacent.

Allatt is a member of Harrisburg's city council.