Anti-discrimination is Everything to Lita Brillman, Candidate for City Council

Lite Brillman. Photo courtesy of the Lita Brillman campaign.

With Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus (District 3 – South Side) retiring at the end of the year, Pittsburgh will be losing LGBTQ representation on City Council. Lita Brillman hopes to change that. Brillman, 27, grew up in Squirrel Hill and currently lives in Greenfield. She’s a graduate student at Pitt, openly queer, and hoping to win her first campaign as she runs for Pittsburgh City Council, District 5, in this year’s primary election on May 16th. 

Lita Brillman says she never wanted to be a politician but felt a call to action after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting on October 27, 2018. At the time of the shooting she was living in Washington, D.C. She recalled going to Tree of Life for preschool as it was across the street from where she grew up. At that moment Lita felt the need to come back to Pittsburgh. “I just wanted to come back and help. I didn’t know what that would look like.”  So she moved home and did a Coro Fellowship, which is a public affairs fellowship where she gained exposure to a lot of different sectors. That led her to research and connection, learning about the many collaborations happening in Pittsburgh. From there she pursued her Master’s in Public Administration at Pitt. She decided that City Council was the best place for her to lend all of the knowledge, passion, and emotion she had for her home.    

As a member of the Jewish Community, Lita says she felt it was odd that District 5, which has such a densely Orthodox Jewish population, has never had a Jewish person on City Council. She feels it’s a good spot for her and added that with Bruce Kraus retiring, she could be the only openly queer person on City Council. “That’s important to me as well”, she said. “LGBTQ protections, particularly for our trans neighbors, are a huge part of my platform.”

Anti-discrimination is very important to Lita Brillman. Racial equality, women’s equality, equality for the LGBTQ Community, as well as the Jewish Community, are all priorities in her campaign. “My district is so diverse and I’m treating their issues as crucial,” said Brillman. “We live in a world where I’m giving blood tomorrow and if I was a gay man I would not be allowed to do that still.” 

Lita’s connection to the LGBTQ Community is special to her. She came out in high school and is openly bisexual. She says being able to include the Queer and Drag communities that have been a home to her in Pittsburgh has been an amazing part of her campaign. She’s having a drag show at the Squirrel Hill Sports Bar hosted by Boo Barrymore on March 19th to raise money for her campaign. The theme is “Star Spangled Bangers.” “Being able to reach out to my drag queen friends and say, ‘I have a gig for you, I can pay you’ is such a good feeling because it’s my favorite part of Pittsburgh; the drag scene here.” She also says, “Being able to talk to trans people and drag queens and have them say that I’m the first politician to ask them what they think and to include them, is really important.” 

Brillman states she is openly for diverting funding away from police into social services. She is also openly for protecting trans kids, not just legislatively, but having paid teacher training in schools to ensure kids are being respected, and not being forced to change in locker rooms that don’t correspond to their gender identity. She’s a disability advocate, which is important to her district which includes a lot of elderly people. “These marginalized voices mean everything to me.”

Lita’s other focuses include environment and labor, and treating those in connection with one another. She says there tends to be an attitude among some environmentalists toward the steel and coal workers in Rust Belt cities, deeming those jobs dirty and not good for the environment. “Some of these people have had those jobs for generations. You can’t tell somebody whose grandfather was a coal miner that their job is bad and they need to get a new job.” Brillman said it’s a transition process that involves creating new, clean jobs and Pittsburgh is a great place for that as we have so many infrastructure concerns. “Building bridges can be good union jobs,” said Brillman. She believes in training people for the future. “Automation is coming whether we like it or not, and we can make that a good thing for the labor movement and for the environmental movement.” She notes the fusion breakthrough that just happened at a lab in California involved Pennsylvania labor. The lenses that were made to do that were made by union labor here in Pennsylvania. “That is union labor for environmental causes and making sure we have the training for those diverse union jobs that are good for the environment for the next couple of decades is going to be a huge factor.” 

Brillman felt it important to acknowledge that she did not receive the Steel City Stonewall Democrats endorsement. She wants to make clear that in three cases, openly queer, younger challengers lost that endorsement to straight candidates — something that has happened in previous years. She encourages voters to read her responses in contrast to the incumbent’s and make their own decision regarding who has more investment in the Queer Community. Steel City Stonewall Democrats’ candidate questionnaires can be found here.

“I know I’m the most progressive person in this race. I know that I’m the best person for the Queer Community. The support from the Queer Community really means so much to me.”

Chrissy Costa is a local comedian known for her dry wit, satirical style of comedy, and big earrings. Before doing stand-up she studied sketch comedy at Chicago’s famed Second City. You can follow her on Instragram and Facebook. (She / Her / Hers)