The news on Tuesday of a federal judge striking down Pennyslvania’s ban on same-sex marriages spurred us to look into Pittsburgh’s history of gay and lesbian equality.
Perhaps inequality is the better word. The Post-Gazette’s archive contains only one relevant folder on the subject — “Homosexuals” — and it’s largely filled with images of protesters.
Historically, same-sex couples have had little to be happy about.
Legislation banning discrimination against homosexuals had first been proposed in Pittsburgh City Council on June 15, 1974, at the behest of a local gay rights group called Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh (GAP).
For a long time, nothing happened.
Years of appeals and slowly rising acceptance across the nation pushed Pittsburgh’s City Council to reconsider.
While running for mayor, Sophie Masloff was against gay rights legislation.
Masloff faced judgement for that decision before becoming mayor, or rather, for her behind-the-scenes actions opposing gay rights legislation in 1988.
Cry Out, a gay rights organization in Pittsburgh, protested and picketed Masloff’s house after her election as mayor.
Gay pride celebrations continued in Pittsburgh — attempts to spur legislation passage — and they eventually made an impact.
In 1990, Mayor Sophie Masloff signed a gay rights amendment into the city’s Human Relations Act, which made it illegal to “discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations based on sexual orientation — defined as ‘male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality or perceived homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality.’”
Her move to ban hiring discrimination was not exactly a bold move. Mayor Richard Caliguiri had already outlawed sexual discrimination in hiring in 1978. Then-Pittsburgh Press columnist Brian O’Neill wrote, “The news of Sophie’s choice was displayed in the newspapers Tuesday, but to the casual observer, it was a non-story.”
And now, in 2014, gay couples in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania can marry — just like anyone else.