In response to the political situation after Tuesday’s election...
We in the LGBTQA+ community find ourselves confused and some have expressed concern about our civil rights. Do not panic! It would be difficult if not impossible for the President to take away our marriage rights. The Supreme Court has made their decision and to overturn that decision would be difficult and take time to change. Basically, marriage equality is the only federally supported right that we have.
Remember before the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality, individual States had approved marriage equality either by legislation or by federal judges’ rulings. In Pennsylvania, we do not have state-wide protections that would protect the LGBTQA+ community in housing, service and employment as all other minority groups do such as discrimination in race, creed, disabilities, etc. More and more local municipalities are considering or already have these protections The City of Reading is the only municipality in Greater Reading that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the ordinance against discrimination in 2009. The Human Relations Commission 610.655.6141’for the City of Reading which has two LGBT Commissioners on its Board is the agency that would investigate any violations to the ordinance. So it is important to continue to support our rights on the State and even local levels.
Reading Pride Celebration with Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Reading and Berks county Community Foundation for the past two year have worked on the “LBGT Initiative” to have businesses and organization sign a pledge to welcome and serve the LGBTQA+ community in there establishment and treat any LGBTQA+ employees equally within their place of business creating a safe and diverse atmosphere. About 170 business and organizations have signed up on our resource page and display a rainbow sticker with Greater Reading printed across the bottom. This is a way to educate people regarding the LGBTQA+ community and the struggle we have for our civil rights. Patronize those found on our resource page and encourage other businesses and organizations you patronize to sign the pledge on our resource page or call us for further information. If we cannot get blanketed federal protections then we have to work on local governments, businesses and organizations.
What is more at risk are the more recent rights granted to our Transgender community such as expedite changing of names and gender on federal documents which if you have not completed do so before the new administration is sworn in Washington, D.C. January 20th. LGBT protections granted to federal employees also by Presidential executive order are at risk you may want to seek legal advice through a lawyer or union.
Also if you know anyone who is without health insurance, it is strongly suggested that they apply for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) which can be completed on line at www.healthcare.gov x, by calling 1.800.318.2596 or by calling Berks Community Health Center 610.988.4838 (www.berkschc.net) for an in person appointment. We know that this program will be at high risk of being repealed but signing up now may give you an extra year of coverage you might not otherwise have. Do it now and do not wait for the December 31st deadline!
So where do we go from here during this time of uncertainly and how the changes may effect not just our community but others that experience discrimination like women, people of color, groups of people who are judged by actions of a few such as Muslims, and people from certain regions of the world, the disenfranchised are all at risk. Remember, together “WE THE PEOPLE …” have the power to make a difference, to unite our struggles, tell our stories of who we are and be there for each other. So if you receive a “Call to Action” from an advocacy group, do not ignore it but instead act on it, sign that petition, march for a cause, attend that seminar to educate and advocate or volunteer with that group that is trying to make a difference. Together we can make a difference!
Should you have questions, need referrals or want to volunteer call us at Reading Pride Celebration 484.240.9660 (www.readingpridecelebration.com), or the newly formed The LGBT Center of Greater Reading 610.698.4063 (www.thecenterofrdg.org) or our good friends at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in the Lehigh Valley 610.347.9988 (www.bradburysullivancenter.org). Stay informed and get involved!
Benedict M. Renkus, President
Reading Pride Celebration
PO Box 15242
Reading, PA 19612-5242