Homeless Youth

Homeless Queer Youth

A working group here in Philadelphia is seeking to find a solution to the LGBTQ youth homelessness problem. They recently received a briefing from the Attic Youth Center and the numbers and facts they presented are staggering and eye opening.

According to the briefing…

Nationally there is an estimated 1.6 million to 2.8 million homeless youth in the United States out of that 40% of these homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Locally we find that “during the Philadelphia school year, 1,688 LGBTQ children and youth experience homelessness. On any given school day, 720 LGBTQ children and youth are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.” And, “of the 2,500 Philadelphia youth ages 18 -20 who have been discharged from DHS (Department of Human Services), an estimated 1,000 are LGBTQ.”

Existing housing for homeless youth in Philadelphia is dismal. According to the Attic, “emergency youth shelters have a total of 18 beds available for youth who are not involved with DHS,” and “only one youth program exists in the city that offers crisis shelter for youth 18 -21 (they can accommodate up to 60 youth when using floor mats)” and “there are 91 beds available for the 2,500 youth ages 18 -20 who have been discharged from DHS.

As you can clearly see there is a housing crisis among our homeless youth, especially our LGBTQ younger brothers and sisters who disproportionately make up the youth homelessness crisis.

To help the working group understand LGBTQ homeless youth issues better, the Attic put together a focus group of 20 LGBTQ youth, whose average age was 19, “all of whom had some experience with homelessness and/or were currently homeless.” The average age of the first group of homeless youth was 16.8 years old.

The focus group was asked three questions:

  • How did you become homeless?
  • What was your experience after you became homeless?
  • What would your ideal housing program look like?

Nationally the top five reasons why LGBTQ youth are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless is that 46% ran away because the family rejected their sexual orientation or gender identity, 43% were forced out by parents because of sexual orientation or gender identity, 32% because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, 17% because of aging out of the foster care system and 14% because of financial or emotional neglect from their families.

The experience of our homeless youth is a sad story for these brave LGBTQ persons.

“I stayed at 4-5 different shelters while trying to get into a youth housing program. I was living day by day and was assaulted regularly. I still wake up terrified each day,” reported one focus group member. Another said, “as a trans woman, staying at the shelter was as scary as it gets.” Another youth “stayed at a shelter and was sexually assaulted.”

Another added that “at the youth housing program, I was told that if I told my roommates I was gay they would hurt me or try to sleep with me. I was kicked out a month later after someone planted a knife in my locker.”

This is scandalous.

The needs in this city alone are so great and overwhelming that it is hard to know where to start first, but bravo to this working group for taking up the cause and helping to seek a solution to this problem.

In time your help will be needed to help fund the solution, as we cannot count on the government on this one. Until then do what you can do to help alleviate the suffering and misery of our homeless queer youth.

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Marriage Now and Then

This has been a whirlwind week for me, as I was on Long Island preparing for and attending my niece’s wedding to her long term partner. Actually this was their second wedding . . . their first ceremony was a private wedding in Vermont last year, this was their public ceremony.

The families were all gathered with anticipated joy as the happy couple was walked to the gazebo, where the ceremony was held, by their mothers. Beautiful vows were exchanged and my brother-in-law, my niece’s father, shared beautiful words for the happy couple.

We eat, drank, danced and talked for eight and a half hours before the newlyweds left for their bridal suite where chilled champagne awaited them. As I kissed the brides good night I was walking on air with such happiness because my 86 year old father lived long enough to witness the marriage one of his lesbian granddaughters. And that my mother, who has always wanted to attend a same-sex marriage, perhaps a hint to me, finally got her wish.

Mazel tov to the couple and a long and happy life be theirs!

On another note the Associated Press is reporting that a “The Connecticut high court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a woman whose wife died amidst a medical malpractice case may sue a doctor over the loss of her wife’s companionship and income, even though that right to sue was limited to heterosexual married couples at the time.”

The issue it raises, the AP points out, is whether same-sex marriage rights should be “applied retroactively and qualify same-sex couples for rights and benefits for which they weren’t entitled before state laws allowed them to marry.”

“Although no states that allow gay marriage have made their laws retroactive, many same-sex partners believe they should have received Social Security survivor payments, tax breaks, inheritances and other benefits that were afforded only to heterosexual married couples before gay marriage laws were passed,” reports the AP.

Anti-same-sex marriage advocates believe this ruling could open the floodgates of “reparation” claims. But it really doesn’t. What is does is simply apply the law as if it had always existed. Same-sex marriage has always been a fundamental constitutional right, it has just been denied for far too long. Many couples have suffered from this discrimination. Fortunes were lost to state and federal governments in inheritance taxes alone. These monies correctly, by constitutional right, belong to the long term partners of the deceased.

No, this is not “reparations.” This is returning money that rightfully belongs to the partner of a same-sex couple, married if not for the law.

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The End of ENDA?

This week might have marked the end of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, which passed the U.S. Senate last November, as six major LGBTQ civil rights organizations pulled their support for it because of the current way it is written and the semantics dictate.

Blame the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling where they found that “closely held” stock corporations can choose to be exempt from being required to provide employees with certain types of contraception under the Affordable Care Act based on religious preferences.

In light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center all now cite concerns over the broad religious exemption included in ENDA. They worry that it could be used by corporations to continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people due to religious beliefs.

“Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable,” the ACLU said in a statement. “It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need, and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects.”

The problem is that the religious exemption clause will allow religious organizations, and now perhaps “closely held” corporations, to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The morning after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA’s broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally – we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law”wrote the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s executive director, Rea Carey in a separate statement.

In June, President Barack Obama announced that he will issue an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ employees. But the question is, will he add a religious exemption clause or will he heed to voices of justice and right and stand with history and issue an executive order without such a clause?

Make your voices heard, call (202.456.1414) or email the President and ask him not to include a religious exemption clause in his non-discrimination order.

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Happy Birthday America

I grew up in an era when the whole town would fall out for the Independence Day parade. The vets, the police and fire departments, all the scouts, marching bands and American flags galore march down the main street through town. I loved seeing the red, white and blue lead the parade and carried by every group represented.

As a Cub Scout and then Boy Scout I was taught the respect of the U.S. flag. In school I was taught the history of it and the men and women who died for it. In the 60’s I watched it both glorified and burned for the sake of freedom. In the 70’s I honored it in many a ceremony and join the Armed Forces to serve under it. In the 80’s I grew a deeper respect for the flag as I lived in Europe and yearned to return to its home. In the 90’s I contemplated it over theological discourse. And in to 00’s I have finally experienced it’s call for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a LGBTQ rights advocate.

And here we are today, the 238th anniversary of the birth of our great nation where in many parts of the country I am still considered a second class citizen. And while I can marry in many states I can be fired for doing it. I can be legally discriminated against. And there is something seriously wrong with that.

I love the patriotic songs and the stories of the great battles for independence. How many LGBTQ people fought and died alongside their heterosexual brothers and sisters for their God given rights; unalienable rights that we who are created equal should enjoy from our birth?

How many LGBTQ peoples have fought for the freedoms we still seek under the stars and stripes throughout our history?

I fly a flag in my office and I have a couple of flags that have flown over the U.S. Capital. I love that banner of freedom.

Today some member of our community was denied access to their sick partner in a hospital. Today a trans* brother of sister was denied proper healthcare. And today a young person was kicked out of a home for being queer.

I am moved when I see the star spangled banner fly high above buildings, on homes and poles in towns, as a standard for the freedoms, but sadly denied to us.

Today we must hold the flag of the United States of America even higher, on this the celebration of our freedom so that we are reminded of our struggles so as to relish in our victories.

Happy Birthday America, I long for the freedoms that you continue to deny us.

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Marriage Equality One Year Later

This week has brought some interesting milestones on our path to full marriage equality. On Thursday we marked the one year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States vs. Windsor when they ruled a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional] The Supreme Court said that the federal government could not deny federal benefits of marriage (such as federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits) to married same-sex couples, if it is recognized or performed in a state that allows same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples can now legally marry in 20 states as well as the District of Columbia (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Utah has a stay on same-sex marriage pending appeal.)  That means that a majority of Americans live in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Another milestone on our journey was the first appellate decision for same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA.   Outlawing same-sex marriage violates citizens’ rights, the three judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said Wednesday in a historic ruling that rejected Utah’s assertion that marriage between a man and woman best suits children and procreation.

The appeals court set a precedent by finding that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage — such as Utah’s Amendment 3 — violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process.

Utah now has 90 days to appeal to the full Circuit Court of Appeals or directly to the high court itself.

Also marking a first would be the dissenting judge’s opinion . . . his was the first time since U.S. vs. Windsor has a federal judge argued for keeping a state ban on same-sex marriages.

Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr., in his minority opinion has broken the string of 16 state and federal judges who sided with same-sex marriage advocates in cases across the country over the past year.

Kelly, 73, is a Republican and appointee of President George H.W. Bush. He has issued a 21-page dissent that warned that his colleagues were overreaching in striking down Utah’s voter-approved gay marriage ban.

Kelly argued that creating a national mandate for same-sex marriage, even in states where it is unpopular, “turns the notion of a limited national government on its head . . . We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of constitutional interpretation of the 14th Amendment.”

Clearly marriage equality is here to stay and its advancement will continue. Kelly’s dissent uplifted same-sex marriage opponents who for the last year been on a losing streak with the inevitability that now surrounds same-sex marriage.

Much has happened on our road to equality this past year and we must never become disheartened with dissenting opinions for we are on the right side of history and marriage equality will soon be legal in all 50 States.

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Seventeen Minutes with The President

Tuesday night I had the honor and pleasure of joining over 500 LGBT leaders from across the country for the Democratic National Committee LGBT Leadership Council Gala. I was joined by Reggie Shuford of the ACLU, Christopher Bartlett of the William Way Community Center, Ted Martin of Equality PA, Penn. Representative  Brian Sims, Alan Beck of Columbia Fun Maps, John Di Pietro of Di Pietro Law, Activists Arthur Kaplan and Duane Perry, and our host Mel Heifetz.  We were there to hear the President of the United States speak.

As our car arrived at the heavily guarded Gotham Hall on Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, I could feel the anticipation in the air from the gathering attendees.  Excitement was visible on the many faces as we checked in, went through Presidential level security and entered the hall.

The evening was emceed by Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Fergusson and wonderful speeches given by Ugly Betty star Michael Urie, and beauty queen, transgender model and advocate Geena Rocero.

President Obama was introduced by Edie Windsor and lawyer Roberta Kaplan, the duo who brought down the Defense of Marriage Act.  Both were greeted with a standing ovation.

And so was the President who walked onto the stage at 7:35 PM and spoke to us for 17 awesome minutes.

Obama told us that, “Pride Month is a time for celebration, and this year we’ve got a lot to celebrate.  If you think about everything that’s happened in the last 12 months, it is remarkable.  In nine more states you’re now free to marry the person you love — that includes my two home states of Hawaii and Illinois. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player.  The U.S. Postal Service made history by putting an openly gay person on a stamp — the late, great Harvey Milk smiling from ear to ear.”

He spoke of the great achievements his administration helped to achieve.

“I want to thank all the incredible friends in the room for the support and guidance that so many of you have offered my administration over the past five and a half years.  Sometimes you guys were a little impatient.  Sometimes I had to say, will you just settle down for a second, we’ve got this.  But because of your help, we’ve been able to do more to protect the rights of lesbian, and gay, and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history,” he stated.

Obama repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act with new protections, signed a hate crimes law bearing Matthew Shepard’s name, “because hate-driven violence has taken the lives of too many in this country.”  He lifted the 22-year ban on people with HIV from traveling to the U.S., and prohibited discrimination in hospitals and housing that received federal funding.

The President added that “we’ve got to keep fighting.  We’ve got to keep fighting for the human rights of people around the world — to those who face violence and intimidation every single day, and who live under governments that have made the existence of anybody who’s LGBT illegal.  We need to send a message to those folks.  I want them to hear from the President of the United States . . . We believe in your dignity and your equality, and the United States stands with you . . . And we’ve got to keep fighting to protect the lives of our brothers and sisters here at home.”

Obama ended his speech by telling us that “this is a country where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you came up, or what your last name is, or who you love — if you work hard and you take responsibility, you should be able to make it.  That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  People who stand up and come out and march, and organize, and fight to expand the rights we enjoy and extend them to other people . . . people who work against the odds to build a nation in which nobody is a second-class citizen, everybody is free to be who they are, and that you’re judged based on are your kind and competent and work hard, and treat each other with respect, and are a team player and look after your community, and care and love and cherish your kids.  That’s how we’re supposed to be judged. . . If you’ve experienced being on the outside, you’ve got to be one to bring more folks in even once you are inside.  That’s our task.  That’s our job.  That’s why we’re here tonight.”

Thank you Mr. President for helping our community achieve so much in the last 5½ years.  We said it here first, you are the “first gay President” and we respect and admire you for it.

Marriage Equality

Leaving Well Enough Alone

Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone. Take as an example Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County Orphans Court Clerk Theresa Santai-Gaffney, who is asking U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to allow her to appeal his May 20th decision which overturned Pennsylvania’s law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Santai-Gaffney wants Jones to put his decision on hold and to allow her to step in to the case to appeal it to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Governor Tom Corbett announced on May 21st that he would not appeal Jones’ ruling.

Supporters of Santai-Gaffney believe she is showing her “true heroic virtue and fortitude,” in the face of “already being death-threated and maligned.” They believe that the Governor has abdicated his leadership role in the Pennsylvania Republican Party which “broadly states as one of its principles, ‘Protecting the sanctity of marriage and the rights of the unborn.’”

On June 6, three attorneys, Jim Smith and David Crossett, attorneys with the Smith Law Group, LLC, located in Fleetwood, Berks County, and Jeff Conrad, attorney with Clymer, Musser & Conrad, P.C., located in Lancaster County, filed a motion to intervene in Whitewood v. Wolf, the case in which a Jones declared unconstitutional for all Pennsylvanians, the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage.

According to a Schuylkill County statement, “Theresa Santai-Gaffney, Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, is seeking intervention in the case so that the ruling can be appealed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.”

“An appeal is necessary so that the judicial process is not abandoned,” stated Santai-Gaffney. “The people of Pennsylvania deserve to hear from the Court of Appeals on this important issue because a single judge should not be able to nullify the will of the majority without an appeal.”

Santai-Gaffney is tilting at windmills and is wasting precious resources.  The people of Schuylkill County should be outraged and stop her foolishness now.

Another waste of resources comes from Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R.-Butler) and Sen. John Eichelberger (R.-Hollidaysburg), who on Monday introduced resolutions calling for Gov. Tom Corbett to appeal Jones decision.

In a memo Metcalfe wrote to House members “This federal court’s usurpation of power is an affront to the sovereignty of the laws of this Commonwealth . . . the governor’s announcement that he does not intend to appeal the decision establishes a harmful precedent that federal judges may overturn any state law that they wish in spite of recent United States Supreme Court language to the contrary. Any changes to Pennsylvania’s definition of marriage should be as a result of the legislative process, allowing elected members of the General Assembly the opportunity to represent the opinions of the citizens they have sworn to represent.”

I will predict that Santai-Gaffney, Metcalfe and Eichelberger will fall flat on their faces, but in the meantime let your voices be heard by contacting Santai-Gaffney on her official Facebook page, or by signing an online petition calling her to stop her activities. Metcalfe can be reached at 724.772.3110 or 717.783.1707 and Eichelberger at 814.695.8386 or 717.787.5490.

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AIDS Education Month

Not only is it June Pride month, it is also AIDS Education Month, which to be honest might have more importance in our community. Pride is important, but as important, if not more so, is how to stop the transmission of HIV. We now have the knowledge at our disposal as to how to slow, if not stop the transmission of HIV in our community.

But is takes a great deal of education and Philadelphia FIGHT is leading the way with almost a dozen “free events through June 29. The schedule includes an awards ceremony, stepping showcase, faith leader’s summit, prison health care conference, a prevention and outreach summit, a hip-hop event, a cookout, a gospel concert and even a ball.”

Thank you Jane Shull for you leadership and vision leading the way in fighting HIV/AIDS.

I strongly encourage you to check out what AEM has to offer by visiting their website here.

So what would I tell the newly out youth/adult that comes to Pride for the first time?

First it’s important to know your status on a regular basis. Too often I’ll read in online profiles “Negative as of 06/06/13.” Dude, that was over a year ago. What have you done since then?

Or here’s a good one, “Negative seeking same.” Well 25 percent of those who are HIV+ are unaware of their status, a number I would consider low, so if you are having unprotected intercourse with a person you think is negative you are putting yourself at risk.

Second, we must stop stigmatizing those with HIV. FACT; an HIV+ person who is on their meds and has an undetectable viral load will not transmit the virus to another person. Some would argue that it would be safer to have unprotected sex with an undetectable individual than with a person who thinks they are negative. In fact armed with this knowledge online hook up sites are beginning to list “undetectable” to their HIV status options for their members.

Third, we need to decriminalize HIV. With all we know about the transmission of HIV we should allow adults to take responsibility for their own actions. Prison terms are so 1980’s. Let’s get with the times.

Forth, and not least in order, is to get to know what PrEP is. “’PrEP’ stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word ‘prophylaxis’ means “to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease.” PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug usage, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body.”

According to AIDS.gov, “The pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for daily use as PrEP for people at very high risk of getting HIV infection is called Truvada®. Truvada® is a combination of two HIV medications (tenofovir and emtricitabine). These medicines work by blocking important pathways that HIV uses to set up an infection. If you take PrEP daily, the presence of the medicine in your bloodstream can often stop HIV from taking hold and spreading in your body. If you do not take PrEP every day, there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block the virus. PrEP can only be prescribed by a health care provider and must be taken as directed to work.”

We need to make this drug widely available and ensure the cost is sharply reduced from its current price, which starts at around $1360 a month.

Lastly, we each must take responsibility for our own status and act accordingly. Today, HIV is not a death sentence, but more of an inconvenience. Educate, educate and educate yourselves more on the truth of HIV and its modern day preventions.

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Another June . . . Another Pride

Here we go again . . . another June is soon upon us, another Pride month. Believe it or not, the celebrations haven’t stopped. In fact, there are more and more of them each year across the country, from large urban cities to some of the smaller type towns, and around the world, from Paris to Bangkok, from Auckland to Rio de Janeiro.

What are all these pride events about? For us, it may be a time to reflect upon our God given sexuality and the strength that it provides us.  It affords us all the opportunity to stand true to ourselves, in all our goodness and all our mess, or to put it bluntly, all that reflects our true human side. Some of us have even been blessed with families that accept us completely and love us unconditionally. Beyond biological families, many of us are lucky enough to have friends that we choose to be considered as family as family can be, who are there to fill a side of our other family that can somewhat equal the support we receive from our biological relations.

Pride can be an important time for us to reflect upon our personal, but not insurmountable experiences and to recount and recall the struggles that we had growing up as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered individuals, representing all the diversity that our wonderful and loving community have come to represent.

We all can remember the strangeness of what we imagined we were, with the few tragic images that TV and cinema decided were appropriate, despite the hypocrisy actualized in real civilization. These images were almost always misrepresented beyond our logical understanding, Gone and unimagined were the struggles and pains endured, often times without internal or external support, in our journey to accept our sexual and, ultimately, social identities.

“It was all too easy to hide my true self and to live different lives among my friends and family,” admitted one friend. But, over time, “Communal pride helped to change all of that,” he said, with conviction.

For many decades, pride events, big and small, have allowed us all, members of the LGBTQ community and our supportive allies, to demonstrate our communal love and acceptance in public. This simple but genuine experience cannot be denied or undervalued.

It is not just another opportunity to have a party.  It is our chance as a community to stand up and say, “Hey look at us! . . . We’re here. . . . We’re queer –And that’s okay.”

Remember there are many queer bothers and queer sisters who are currently or will be struggling to come out and experience the same pride that so many of us have come to know and enjoy. Thankfully, our current society is, dare I say, exponentially more accepting of everyone’s differences. I pray that one day when all of our battles have been won, that we will assume other causes with as much fervor so that we may continue to assist the oppressed.

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Our Next Move

I have my wedding cake and I want to eat it too . . . without the fear of being fired from my job because my same-sex partner and I got married.

On Tuesday we celebrated a major milestone here in Pennsylvania when U.S. District Judge John E. Jones stuck down as unconstitutional the Commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban which dates back to 1996. Jones cited the constitutional hallmarks of due process and equal protection found in the 14th Amendment in striking down the ban.

“By virtue of this ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth,” wrote Jones. There was no stay and the ruling went into effect immediately. “In future generations, the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage,” Jones wrote. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

On Wednesday Governor Tom Corbett (R) declared that the battle for marriage equality in Pennsylvania was over when he declared that he would not appeal Judge Jones’ ruling.

But wait! Now that we have had time to celebrate a hard fought victory, which will continue as same-sex marriages are preformed across to Commonwealth and families celebrate their legal recognition, we need to remember we were victorious in one battle, same-sex marriage, but we have a ways to go for full equality.

The sad truth is that I can still be fired in 70% of the Commonwealth if I legally marry a man. I can be denied housing and benefits all because there is not an inclusive anti-discrimination bill in Pennsylvania. Sadly in 2014 sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes in Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination law.

This not only needs to change, but it needs to do so expediently!

In December 2013 Governor Corbett announced that he was “coming out in support” of a bill that would create anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

With Corbett’s support we must press ahead with advancing anti-discrimination laws that include all the members of our LGBTQ community.

But I am reminded by trans* activist Jordan Gwendolyn Davis that we have other issues which must be addressed in our fight for full equality. They include, safe schools, hate crime laws that include LGBTQ peoples, and outlawing conversion therapy for minors. We must be mindful that transgender people can barely get healthcare, that the prison system has no concept of LGBTQ needs and LGBTQ youth/elders/people of color/with (dis)abilities and people with AIDS are still facing marginalization and austerity, and trans people, especially of color, are still being criminalized.

We won the battle for marriage equality in Pennsylvania, so now let us continue the war for full equality for we stand on the right side of history.