City falls short in areas of LGBT policy survey

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A national survey ranking 291 municipalities in terms of how well their policies and laws treat the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community places Pittsburgh behind Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.

The survey was released last week by an arm of the Human Rights Campaign, which touts itself as the country's largest civil rights organization for LGBT equality.

Pittsburgh scored 72 out of 100 points. It achieved a perfect score in several categories, including having non-discrimination laws and creating domestic partner registries.

But the city did not fare so well in other areas. The survey claimed Pittsburgh does not provide equivalent family leave, lacks a city contractor equal benefits ordinance and does not have an LGBT police liaison or task force.

Marissa Doyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, took issue with some of those assertions.

She said all employees are offered uniform benefits "regardless of LGBT self-identification status."

Ms. Doyle noted that Pittsburgh this year passed legislation to force businesses seeking contracts worth more than $250,000 to offer equal benefits to their employees.

As for the Bureau of Police, Ms. Doyle acknowledged that there is no LGBT liaison, "though we have been in the process of implementing one."

"Thanks to the dedicated hard work of many, we continue our efforts to make the City of Pittsburgh a 'Most Livable City' for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," she said in an email. "Whether it's creating Mayor Ravenstahl's [LGBT] task force in 2009, or establishing an [LGBT] community liaison in the mayor's office, we've made great strides over the last few years and hope that this progress continues for years to come."

Sue Kerr, 43, of Manchester, an activist blogger who writes about LGBT issues and whose partner works for the city, would like Pittsburgh to aspire to the perfect score earned by Philadelphia and 24 other cities.

"Overall I think the document is useful. It's disappointing we didn't have a higher score. But there is potential for us with a new administration and new [city] council to make some headway and hopefully pave the way for the rest of the region," Ms. Kerr said Wednesday. "This index is very helpful because it starts a whole benchmarking process."


Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.


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