Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin plans to spend his time at Creating Change with colleagues from the Equality Federation, a national network of statewide organizations working for LGBT rights.
“Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the country in the middle of a serious campaign around nondiscrimination,” Martin said, referring to the Pennsylvania Fairness Act that has stalled in committee, “a serious, largescale, statewide, long-term campaign. These campaigns are very new. We’re all facing the ‘religious liberty’ questions. We’re trying to work through, often, very conservative legislatures or very conservative governors.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, states pursuing pro-equality campaigns this year include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Martin, along with Equality PA staffers Daye Pope, transgender-rights organizer, and Hannah Jeffrey, deputy organizing director, sat down with PGN Thursday to discuss what they plan to take from the conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force, for their work in Pennsylvania.
Jeffrey planned to attend the Equality Federation workshop on nondiscrimination and said she looked forward to the “informal mentorships and informal learning.”
They discussed how the conversation around nondiscrimination laws has changed in the wake of national marriage equality.
“I don’t know what had to come first, but it certainly has made the battle a lot different,” Martin said. “Never in my life did I ever think that marriage would just sort of fall in place. It just seemed, at the time, so big and insurmountable.”
Martin said opponents to same-sex marriage have seen that no terrible consequences resulted from marriage equality. But because they “lost” on the issue, many have dug in their heels against nondiscrimination laws.
“I personally look at nondiscrimination as pretty basic American stuff,” Martin said. “To be treated fairly is really the basis of the country.”
Pope added, “getting marriage out of the way really made a lot more room for working on trans issues."
She said she was especially interested in the conference institute on how to promote economic justice for transgender people.
Last month, Pope started the Transgender Justice Working Group that includes online initiatives and in-person events to link the transgender organizations in Pennsylvania.
“They historically haven’t really had a lot of collaboration with each other just because of the geography of the state and being separate,” Pope said.
The group’s first project, in its early stages, is to work with health-care providers around the state on transgender cultural competency.