Last year, one of the biggest stories PGN covered was the (seemingly) nonstop nondiscrimination ordinances passed by local townships. Practically every other week (well, maybe once a month), a municipality held hearings and approved an antidiscrimination law. While it might not seem like a big deal to those living in Philadelphia, which has had protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity for over a decade now, for those outside Pennsylvania’s major cities, this is huge.
With last year’s eight new ordinances, 30 percent of Pennsylvanians are now protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s up 9 percent from the prior year. And since antidiscrimination bills are stalled at the state level, it’s up to the local governments to send a message to legislators that, yes, Pennsylvanians really do back equality — and protect their citizens.
Leading that charge for the past year was Equality Pennsylvania, with executive director Ted Martin and board president Adrian Shanker at the helm. The organization went through a period of transition recently, and some doubted its long-term viability. In the end, Philadelphia’s loss was the state’s gain. Kudos to Martin and Shanker for bringing the agency through and building the grassroots relationships to pass these ordinances. Here’s to more in 2012.
In addition to PGN’s Person of the Year, we are also recognizing for the first time an Unsung Hero for 2011: Dr. Carrie Jacobs, executive director of The Attic Youth Center.
Jacobs is a tireless advocate for LGBT youth. She’s focused and driven, doing what’s best for them, often without fanfare or recognition. Jacobs works behind the scenes and doesn’t worry about public acknowledgement. We know she’s worked on high-profile issues discreetly and directly, more concerned with initiating tough dialogues and resolving problems than publicizing them. She’s too busy fixing issues to talk about them. We, as a community, and our LGBT youth are lucky to have her.
Tuesday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa may not have cleared the field much (have you left yet, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann?), but the LGBT community should be riled up about one result: former Sen. Rick Santorum’s eight-vote loss to Mitt Romney. In an interview last Friday with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Santorum said he would invalidate existing same-sex marriages and advocate an amendment to the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Later that night, Santorum was glitter-bombed by someone saying, “Stop the hate. Taste the rainbow.”
If Santorum ends up as the Republican presidential candidate, it will be both horrifying and a boon to the LGBT community: As his positions are so hard-line right-wing conservative, it will likely electrify Obama supporters, both passionate and tepid.