I’ve been thinking about this post for a month or so, since I had an interesting discussion with a state-wide LGBTQ organizer. The question was, and is… Does it matter who gets elected as the Pennsylvania governor, to propel LGBTQ Rights forward in the Keystone State?

I admit before going any further, I fear writing this post and that it might imply or be misconstrued to suggest that your vote doesn’t matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. You vote matters very, very, much. I think however, the question has to be, why your votes matters. In fact, I think once you consider why your vote matters, then it will help encourage you to make it to the polls regardless of how the governor’s race is looking. Here’s my fear: many LGBTQ voters will fixate on the governor’s race and as it looks like Wolf is likely to win, they will stay home from the polls.

I’m a progressive through and through, but if we are honest, we have to admit that the current conservative Republican governor hasn’t been horrible for the LGBTQ community. Indeed, it is easy to see Corbett’s decision to not appeal the same-sex marriage decision as a sign that he is a pretty good guy when it comes to LGBTQ Issues. He’s been on record for a while as supporting non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, although I think his view has broadened so that he now is on record as willing to sign nondiscrimination protections even if they include gender identity and expression, which is very good news. I think there may be some Gay Rights advocates who are not campaigning against Corbett ( and might even vote for him) as a thank-you for his willingness to allow Marriage Equality to proceed in the state.

To move the LGBTQ Rights efforts forward in Pennsylvania, we need to pass state-wide nondiscrimination protections with minimal religious exemptions, and we need to see a fair and meaningful hate crimes legislation passed. And then, we need to see these legislative steps followed by continued cultural shifts towards greater acceptance and inclusion of out of the closet LGBTQ persons across the state. From my perspective, the governor’s race won’t have any direct impact upon the legislative efforts, but it may dramatically impact the opportunity for that cultural shift which is essential for the State to move forward. So, don’t vote for a gubernatorial candidate because of some fallacious belief it will mean legislative advances. It is fine to want to thank Corbett for what he did (or didn’t do) regarding the battle for Marriage Equality, but don’t slow down progress in PA with that thank-you.

The single biggest obstacle standing in the way of legislative advance for LGBTQ legislation rests utterly and completely on the conservative GOP controlled State House, and most specifically, on the role Darryl Metcalfe plays in the House power structure. The GOP took control during the last, governor’s race as Dan Onorato failed to run a successful campaign, and progressives across the state stayed home and allowed conservatives to take over. Progressives must take steps back towards control of the House by turning out and voting in huge numbers. One election may not turn it all around, but can set the stage for that to happen.

We won’t see state-wide nondiscrimination or hate crimes legislation succeed as long as the GOP is so strongly in control in the PA Senate and the PA House. This election is the first opportunity to begin to make that change. Even without a huge progressive turnout, Wolf might win. But that huge progressive turnout is needed to send a strong message and to carry into power as many progressives as possible. So, it isn’t the governor’s race directly, but the effects of a huge turnout for the governor’s race that can help propel LGBTQ Rights legislation forward.

But there is something the LGBTQ community needs from our governor that we are never going to get from Tom Corbett, and it isn’t about if he will or won’t sign legislation. We need a governor willing to appoint, out-of-the closet lesbian, gay and trans* persons throughout the state government. While our previous democrat governor didn’t do enough to push for LGBTQ Rights, he did at least appoint queer persons to boards, councils or positions where it mattered. Corbett, can’t and won’t, and that is a huge reason why we much see him get booted from PA government. Just as we have seen Obama accomplish in Washington, the appointment of out queer persons across the government brings LGBTQ voices to the table and sends strong messages about visibility and respect.

To move LGBTQ Rights forward in Pennsylvania, we need the following:

  • Voters to see LGBTQ Rights issues and other progressive issues as all connected. We need to move the state in a progressive direction for everyone’s advantage and improve life for everyone.
  • We need LGBTQ Rights supporters to turn out and vote in very big numbers, to assure we elect a progressive to the governor’s office, and to help elect as many progressives across all aspects of government.
  • We need all progressive supporters to be encouraging everyone to get out and vote. Our futures do depend upon it.

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