Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Better Living Here in Allentown: Steve Black and Other Local Activists Shepherd the Passage of Antidiscrimination Protections in the Heart of Blue-Collar America. (Behind the Headlines)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Better Living Here in Allentown: Steve Black and Other Local Activists Shepherd the Passage of Antidiscrimination Protections in the Heart of Blue-Collar America. (Behind the Headlines)

Article excerpt

Allentown, Pa., is known as a hard-scrabble conservative steel town of 105,000, so it was somewhat surprising when the city council in April banned discrimination in employment and housing based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. The victory was the result of the work of the Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Political Action. Formed to represent the Lehigh Valley, it has had an increased presence in the city ever since 1998, when it began working to elect a pro-gay mayor and city council. The Advocate spoke to Steve Black, who leads the alliance along with Elizabeth Bradbury. The 36-year-old Black--who works at the family--owned Black's Luncheonette in Pen Argyl, a town of 3,000 located half an hour north of Allentown--discussed life in Pennsylvania, family politics, and a late-breaking attempt to repeal the gay rights law.

Tell me about Allentown.

It was once a blue-collar steel town with a reputation for social conservatism. It had a very conservative city council. But the demographics of cities change. We helped to elect a new mayor who [is supportive of gay rights] and a lesbian member of the city council. And we also helped to elect a Latino member who is progressive.

How did you get involved in gay politics?

I've been involved in Democratic politics since I was a teenager. When I came out about 12 years ago, it was a natural step to get involved in gay politics too. At the time, there was almost no organizing in the Lehigh Valley gay and lesbian community.

There was some very dramatic testimony in favor of the new protections. The daughter of a police officer who was gunned down in the line of duty spoke out about the fear she faces both as a lesbian and as the daughter of a crime victim.

The president of the city council, a man who used to be the police chief, was very moved by that testimony. …

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