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Westmoreland commissioners nix LGBT resolution

Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

Westmoreland County's Republican commissioners said on Tuesday they will not approve a resolution proclaiming June as a month for awareness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Commissioners Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney said a generic proclamation touting diversity in the county will be presented instead on Thursday.

“It's not going to be specific. Instead of focusing on an individual group, it will focus on all groups,” Anderson said.

Commissioners earlier this week received an emailed request from a Greensburg man asking that they approve a proclamation that mirrors one issued last month by President Obama.

Jason Gearhart said he wanted commissioners to show support for his community.

“I don't feel insulted,” Gearhart said about commissioners rejecting his proposed proclamation. “My friends and family support me. My federal government supports me, and the state supports me. Why doesn't Westmoreland County give me the same support?”

The presidential proclamation specifically recognized the LGBT community as well as general diversity.

“I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people,” Obama said in the proclamation.

Courtney called the proclamation proposed for Westmoreland County “political.”

“I'm not going to separate one group from another. We're supposed to be neutral, and this one is very politically charged,” Courtney said.

Rachel Butler-Pardi, a member of WestCo Pride, an advocacy group for the county's LGBT community, said on Tuesday she was disappointed that commissioners appear to have turned their backs on supporting gay rights.

“We're really at a crossroads in getting full rights. They are sweeping the LGBT community under the rug and minimizing the lack of protections they have,” Butler-Pardi said.

Democrat Ted Kopas said he will support the generic diversity proclamation but favors one specific to the LGBT community.

“We should be celebrating diversity. However, the request was much more than that,” Kopas said. “I don't think we should be afraid to support the request from our gay and lesbian constituents. We should not be ashamed to give them the proper recognition they are asking for.”

The proclamation issue was discussed on Tuesday during the commissioners agenda meeting, which Controller Jeff Balzer attended.

Balzer lashed out at the proposal.

“We're going to have gay months? Come on. They are not a challenged people,” he said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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