June is an opportunity to celebrate our right to love who we love and to love, and be, our true selves. I am proud to have participated in Pride events every year, including the years that I have held office, and to have my family join me in many of them. I’m proud to be an advocate and an ally of those in our community who identify as LTBTQ and to work with all of you to make our region more inclusive.
It has been a difficult 15 months with the pandemic. Last year’s events were disrupted because of the mitigation measures intended to keep our community safe. The county’s response, led by the Health Department and Director Dr. Debra Bogen, was swift and adaptive. It also focused on reaching those in the LGBTQ communities through outreach and initiative. In the midst of the pandemic, the department also hired a Health Equity Coordinator, a person whose sole responsibility is to ensure that everything the Health Department does is done through an equity lens. Such initiatives are absolutely vital to meet the needs of the community and I’m grateful for their effort.
Our community continues to change, but we have more to do. I’m heartened by the vote of the electorate to amend the PA Constitution to prohibit restricting or denying an individual’s equal rights because of race or ethnicity, but it should have also included additional protections for those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender. For far too long, the legislature has sat on legislation that would offer those basic protections in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels. I’m grateful that I was part of the effort to create a county Human Relations Act and Commission that provides those protections here, but it’s frustrating and disappointing that not everyone in the state is afforded the same opportunities.
We must continue to do more to support greater diversity and inclusion in this region and beyond. Just as importantly, we can’t let our differing opinions and priorities separate us or worse, devolve into hate. We are at our best when we work together and are civil and respectful of each other, even in our differences. Everyone, regardless of the characteristics that make us unique, including sexual orientation and identity, has the right to be treated fairly and feel welcome in their community. In Allegheny County, we are committed to protecting your rights and providing you with needed resources and support. For more information on how we can help, go to the county’s Human Relations Commission webpage or check the list of resources the Department of Human Services has compiled. Through collaboration, we will continue to break down barriers, increase opportunity, celebrate our diversity, and improve the quality of life for all who call this place home.