Pennsylvania Equality Project

P.O. Box 976
Edinboro, PA 16412        
Equality Now! Equality Always!

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All people deserve the right to be happy. All people deserve the opportunity to find happiness with others. Humans are social creatures, and we yearn to be with one another. Why should two men or two women be stopped from entering into a marriage that defines them as one? No valid reason exists. People should also not suffer the indiginities of public accommodation discrimination, bullying, conversion therapy, or youth homelessness. These blog posts offer the Pennsylvania Equality Project leadership team's opinions about marriage equality and related issues.

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Inclusion

Posted by david_nwpa on June 23, 2017 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Photo courtesy of The Guardian (2014)

When I was a child, I was usually one of the last, if not the last person picked for sports teams in school. I was not a fast runner, not all that athletic, and I certainly was not that coordinated. Watching me today on the dance floor is a sight to behold as I have as much rhythm now as I did when I was a child. All I wanted was to be included in activities and accepted by my peers. The need to be included in activities and in life with our peers is one of our basic human needs. Most humans require kinship with our fellow humans. We want to be picked for the team. In school, the team captains were fellow students who determined the players on each team. In the LGBTQ community, our team is divided in part for two reasons.


These two particular issues have concerned me during Pride month, which is supposed to be part joyous celebration of the victories we have achieved, and part reminder that we have so much more fight to go. Pride this year has been mired in controversy. First, here in Pennsylvania, the Pride flag has had two stripes added to it. I understand both sides of the argument for wanting to keep the stripes, and for not changing the flag. While the Pride flag is steeped in history and tradition within our community, it is not a sacrosanct image. Flags and traditions can and do change. Without going any further into the flag debate, I would caution our community that at a time when we need to be unified, we should not allow something like the Pride flag to distract our fight for equality. My personal position is that the city of Philadelphia changed the flag as a means of starting a conversation on the racial tension and division in our community. It is not the Pride flag for every other city in PA or around the world. If you don't like the flag, don't fly it. If you do, fly it with Pride. As for our page, we are not posting any more stories about the matter. 


However, it does not mean that conversations about race, or about the corporate usurpation of pride should stop. Quite the opposite, I encourage these matters to be debated, and to search for common ground so that we can resume our fight for equality. That leads me to my next point, which is that the community has to take back Pride. While corporate dollars can help draw in expensive entertainment, and make for flashier pride floats, money also corrupts the main purpose of Pride.

Pride is a time for the LGBTQ community to draw together. Stories like this one from U.S. News and World Report are not ones that inspire unity.

"Gay pride marches in New York City, San Francisco and in between this weekend will have plenty of participants — and also protests directed at them from other members of the LGBT community, speaking out against what they see as increasingly corporate celebrations that prioritize the experiences of gay white men and ignore issues facing black and brown LGBT people.

The protests disrupted other pride events earlier this month. In Washington, D.C., the No Justice No Pride group blocked the parade route. In Columbus, Ohio, four people were arrested after a group set out to protest violence against minority LGBT people and the recent acquittal of a police officer in the shooting death of Philando Castile, a black man, during a traffic stop.

"Nobody wants to feel dropped in a community that prides itself on diversity," said Mike Basillas, one of the organizers of the planned New York City protest action by No Justice No Pride."

Pride is about so much more than lavish parties; it is a time to draw together and include all members of our community, regardless of race, income, religion, or political viewpoints. As a tradition, Pride started as riots and a fight back against authoritarian power. As I previously stated, times and traditions can and do change. However, changing traditions does not mean, nor does it require, that we give away our celebration to those who tarnish our Commonwealth's resources. We should not be a divided community; our strength lies in our acceptance of one another's diversity!


I take some measure of comfort knowing that our team leaders across the country have taken steps to address the racial and corporate tension that has gripped some of the Pride celebrations. Again taken from the US News and World Report article:

Pride organizers around the country have taken steps to address the criticisms. In San Francisco, Sunday's pride event will be led by groups including the Bayard Rustin LGBT Club, SF Black Community Matters, African Human Rights, and Bay Area Queer People of Color. In New York City, the march organizers are putting a contingent of groups more focused on protest than celebration at the head of the event.


Tomorrow, I will be marching in the Pride Parade in Erie, and celebrating alongside many people I admire for their dedication and commitment to equal rights. They are inclusive, loving, warm, and friendly. Although Erie's celebration is in a smaller city, the atmosphere and camaraderie far outweigh the need for a zip line or flashy pride floats. Our fractured team needs to come together; we need to unify with one common understanding: "None are equal, until ALL are equal!"


In solidarity,

David

Fifty Years Later...

Posted by david_nwpa on June 18, 2017 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (1)
Richard and Mildred Loving, Photo circa 1967

In 1967, the United States was forever changed when Richard and Mildred Loving won their case before the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Wikipedia,

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), is a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored". The Supreme Court's unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, overruling Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, June 12. It has been the subject of several songs and three movies, including the 2016 film Loving. Beginning in 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.

I thought about the Loving's while I attended a wedding last weekend. The lovely couple, Travis and Barbara, are also an interracial couple. While their wedding took place in Michigan, it would not have been considered valid in Virginia or a number of states, which had laws on the books to prevent people of different races from wedding one another. No protests were held at the wedding I attended. No one complained; on the contrary, everyone appeared to have a wonderful evening. Fifty years after the Loving decision was reached by the U.S. Supreme Court, no one is actively seeking to overturn that decision at the Court.


The LGBTQIA community in Pennsylvania has had marriage equality for about three years now. When Judge John H Jones ruled that laws opposing marriage equality should be tossed in the dust bin of history, my heart leapt for joy! It meant that same-sex couples could go wed without further delays. It meant stability and a large step toward equality. However, in 2014, when the law changed, thirty three other states still lacked legal recognition of marriages by and for same-sex couples. Much like the days when Richard and Mildred Loving were first married, their marriage would have been valid in some states, but not others.


This weekend, the anti-LGBTQIA rally held in Washington DC to protest marriage equality drew roughly 50 people. Instead of drawing large crowds, very few people attended, because most understand the futility of attending rallies for issues which have been settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. Fifty years later, the rights of loving couples (no pun intended) are upheld and recognized by the laws in all 50 states.


With all that we have to celebrate, from marriage equality to legal same-sex adoptions in all 50 states, to Oregon now adding a non-binary gender option on their drivers licenses and ID cards, the LGBTQIA community has many reasons to come together in unity and be ecstatic over the progress we have made. Thus, it hurts very much that we are still struggling over issues such as the flag in Philadelphia. I have listened to the points made by both sides of the argument and have concluded that the brown and black stripes added to the flag have opened a conversation about queer people of color that is long overdue. No flag committee exists to dictate what the "correct" Pride flag should look like. The original flag had two stripes which no longer appear (indigo and pink) on most modern Pride flags.


Instead of getting mired in arguments within our community, all of us must work more diligently to resolve tension within the community wherever it may lie. We must accept one another for each other's differences. Our flag is a representation of who we are as a community. Dismissing the concerns of people of color is an action that none of us should allow. Folks, ending racial tensions and unrest is an important problem that stunts our community. We have other serious issues such as LGBTQIA youth homelessness, bullying, conversion therapy, and assisting our LGBTQIA elderly population. Fifty years after Loving v. Virginia, and we still have a long way to go.


In solidarity,

David

P.S. It feels great writing again. Expect more blog posts every Sunday and Wednesday as we move forward.


No Endorsements

Posted by david_nwpa on February 26, 2017 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Greetings fellow supporters of the Pennsylvania Equality Project,


Throughout this past year, Pennsylvania Equality Project has recommended that our supporters vote for pro-LGBTQ candidates and causes. No matter where you live in Pennsylvania, we suggested that certain candidates support our concerns, and their opponents may or may not be as supportive of the LGBTQ community. For example, we have seen how frequently Representative Daryl Metcalfe has lambasted LGBT causes in the State General Assembly, and how he has chastised openly gay Representative Brian Sims. His opponent in the 2016 election, Christian Rieger was ardently in favor of LGBT equality, and would have made an excellent choice to represent the people of his district. Likewise, we encouraged voters to explore the candidates, attend forums, and vote for people who represent us. At no point, however, did we explicitly endorse any candidates for public office.


Pennsylvania Equality Project is actively seeking 501c3 status, and as such, cannot make political endorsements. The suggestions we presented came from numerous sources, including candidate press releases, Equality PA, and other media outlets. At no time has ME4PA (our predecessor) nor Pennsylvania Equality Project told our supporters for whom they should vote, in keeping with our efforts to become 501c3 certified. Thus, I am dismayed by the actions of a local candidate in the race for Erie City Council.


Until December 15, 2013, Mr. Jason Brendel worked for Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania as a local leader in Erie, PA. However, recent tweets of his suggest that our organization endorses or supports his campaign. We wished him the very best in his efforts beyond our organization, but in no way then or now endorse him as a candidate for office. To be clear, we cannot and will not endorse political candidates. We encourage our supporters to seek out people whom they believe will best represent them and their needs. We also encourage our supporters to seek the greater needs of the LGBTQ community at large.


As 2017 brings new local elections, get involved. Run for office. Vote in the local elections. Sign our petitions. Be an active participant in the political process. Just remember that we only offer our ideas. We do not endorse candidates.


In Solidarity,


David

Forecast 2017: Some Gloom, No Doom

Posted by david_nwpa on December 31, 2016 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (2)

With 2016 coming to an end, it is time for my predictions for the new year. I am not very optimistic about the chances of much civil rights legislation advancing in Pennsylvania or in Washington. In some ways, I think we will lose many of the rights we have gained, or at least had taken for granted. Thus, my vision for 2017 is:


1. Donald Trump will be sworn into office with minimal fanfare. Kanye West will feel snubbed since he was not chosen to host for the evening, and he will launch his presidential candidacy within minutes of the inauguration. Scott Baio will serve as master of ceremonies for a former-star studded evening that will include Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. Meanwhile, on ABC, an evening with Madonna, Beyonce, Elton John, and every other celebrity who turned down a bid to perform at the inauguration will host a benefit concert for HIV-AIDS awareness.


2. The concert will lead the Nielsen ratings over the television series premiere of The Apprentice Cabinet.


3. Senator Ted Cruz will push for his First Amendment Defense Act. Both the House and the Senate will hold hearings on the bill, and despite dramatic back and forth between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the bill will clear final hurdles in the Senate, and arrive at President Trump's desk. He will sign it, and immediately, businesses will put out signs saying "No Gays Allowed." You can take steps to prevent its passage by signing our petition.


4. A new strand of HIV called HIV-2 will become an even deadlier threat. As a result of intense lobbying by Vice President Mike Pence, money that would have been allocated to deal with such a threat will be used instead for other projects, such as electroshocking gay youth.


5. Betsy Devos, the new Secretary of Education, will promote a plan to Congress that will virtually remove all federal funding for education, unless states are willing to institute plans to direct block grant funding to religious-based schools. States will be forced to develop voucher programs, and public schools will continue to suffer from lack of funding. Anti-bullying efforts will be left to private organizations.


6. Non-profit entities such as GLSEN will not be allowed to offer their brochures or programs in schools, because the new voucher program will include a clause that denies LGBTQ groups access to K-12 campuses.


7. In terms of the blood ban against gay men, the FDA will reinstitute more stringent guidelines that will deny gay men to donate blood, even to themselves. As a result, blood banks will notice a 20% decrease in the number of donors they have had from previous years.


8. A record number of people will turn out when PEP marches on the capital in Harrisburg this June to demand passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. Despite our best efforts, legislators will adjourn the session without progress on it, nor the PA 2017-2018 budget. Schools across the Commonwealth will suffer as a result.


9. Erie County will be the first in Pennsylvania to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors. Philadelphia's and Pittsburgh's citywide bans will serve as the basis for the legislation. The Human Rights Commission for Erie County will offer any other counties that inquire, any additional information about why this ban is necessary.


10. Attendance at Pride events across Pennsylvania will be at an all-time high as a record number of straight allies discover all the fun they have been missing. While glitter stockpiles will dwindle, supplies will be replenished in time for Labor Day.


That's it, folks. Some of these predictions are meant to be silly or absurd. Some are meant to be serious wake up calls for times to come. The threat against LGBTQ youth is worse than ever. Meanwhile, we have to fight to protect some semblance of the Affordable Care Act. Abolishing it entirely, which is something Donald Trump has pledged to do, should not happen unless Congress first has in place, a plan that will provide even better coverage for the millions of Americans who otherwise would be left to die for lack of health insurance. With that most unpleasant thought in mind, I wish you all the very best and brightest for the new year, 2017! #LongLiveEquality


In solidarity,

David



Stop the FADA

Posted by david_nwpa on December 23, 2016 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Equality Project, I am proud to launch our newest petition. I wish I did not have to do this, but some in Congress such as Senator Ted Cruz really want to pass this bill, which is completely unnecessary. We are asking our supporters to prevent the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) from being passed by Congress. According to the legislation as it was introduced in the US Congress, the new law says that the United States, "shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

 

Why is this important?

 

If passed, this bill would open the door for continued discrimination of the LGBTQ community in direct violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause, and would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution by allowing one type of religious group to discriminate against another, and inevitably allow open discrimination.

 

The Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote that FADA was "unnecessary and could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians." It has also been criticized by Ian S. Thompson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, who claimed that it would, if passed, "open the door to unprecedented taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people." In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Equality Project condemns the bill for allowing LGBTQ citizens to be treated as second class solely because of who they are, and whom they love.

 

Legal discrimination already exists in Pennsylvania, and 30 other states. It is legal for LGBTQ people to be married one day, and fired the next solely because they come out to their boss. It allows for LGBTQ people to be denied basic services, based solely on sexual and/or gender identity. Pennsylvanians already know the harsh realities caused by not having the Pennsylvania Fairness Act in place. We are calling on Congress not to make matters worse by passing the FADA.


Sign our petition here.


Happy Holidays,

In Solidarity,

David


All Politics are Local

Posted by david_nwpa on December 19, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)
Fourth of July Parade, Millcreek, PA, July 2015

Remember the good feeling you had when marriage equality was instituted as the law of the land by the U.S. Supreme Court? You can capture that good feeling all over again. It is in your power to be your own advocate. You do not need my permission to stand up for your rights. Whether it is marriage equality, an end to legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community, a ban on conversion therapy, or any of the other rights we seek, you have the power to be an activist and and advocate for yourselves. Better still, you have the power to reach out to your friends, and lead them with your activism and advocacy. 

How, you ask, will we make change all across Pennsylvania if our legislature in Harrisburg can barely pass a budget, let alone LGBTQ civil rights legislation? The answer lies in the direct activism at the local level. We are not making change at the moment in Harrisburg because our leaders on both sides of the aisle lack the political will and the fortitude to put bullies like Representative Daryl Metcalfe in their respective places. People who support LGBTQ causes do not have the votes in the General Assembly over the next two years to win.

For that reason, it is important for us to advocate at the local level, where most politics happens. Attend your local borough, town or city council meetings, and speak at them. Ask us for help, if you need talking points. Want to ban conversion therapy in your community? Just ask Mayor Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh, or Mayor Kenney in Philadelphia about why that particular issue resonates with their respective city councils. Draw from their ideas, and present them to your local borough. If more local communities take a stand, eventually Harrisburg will take notice.

Get locally owned businesses to join us. Want to make a difference in your local community? Convince business owners of the value of the LGBTQ community. Remind them that we are their friends, neighbors, sons and daughters. We spend money in our communities, and make them stronger. Encourage local businesses to contact us at PEP to list their businesses on our Business Links page.

I am asking everyone on here to become their own PEP Leader. I am encouraging the most active among us to join the PEP Leaders group on Facebook. Build your own local organization. Write letters to the editor of local newspapers. Comment on LGBTQ stories published by local newspapers on the Internet. Vote, because it is your voice. You have a voice; use it!

In Solidarity,
David

Victory in Pittsburgh

Posted by david_nwpa on December 13, 2016 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)


Pittsburgh in 2013: Paula Johnston led rally for Marriage Equality

Do you remember how good it felt to hear that marriage equality had become law in Pennsylvania? Do you remember all the rallies, the marches, the picnics you attended in support of pushing our cause to the foreground, and helping our non-LGBTQ allies realize that we are already within their communities. We are their neighbors. We're not to be feared; rather, many LGBTQ people simply want to live their lives in peace without confrontation. Our lives and our loves matter. Pittsburgh was the site I visited when the news came at the federal level, when the US Supreme Court made marriage for same-sex couples the law nationwide. Pittsburgh was the site we chose to award Braddock, PA Mayor John Fetterman with the ME4PA Equality Award.


Thus, it is fitting that the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed the first ban on conversion therapy in Pennsylvania. If our lives and loves truly matter, then the age at which those loves exist, and those lives are lived should not matter. Children are quite vulnerable to psychological harm and bullying. They endure it from their peers in school, and they deal with it from their churches, their families, and the people they want as friends. Life is tough enough without adding to it the harm caused by conversion therapy.


Plenty of medical, psychological, educational, and social work associations have condemned the use of this therapy as harmful to the people who must endure it. Pittsburgh City Council agreed, and they must have heard the voices who spoke clearly through our petition. I would like to think that in some small way, our organization, and your voices made a significant impact to protect the lives of our most vulnerable. To the Mayor and City Council of Pittsburgh, a hearty thank you.


However, our work is far from complete. While Philadelphia is taking steps to end conversion therapy there, our state legislators must enact a statewide law that forever takes a stand against the harm inflicted by the sheer quackery that is conversion therapy. You can help support that effort by signing and sharing our petition. Together, we can make significant change here in Pennsylvania!

In Solidarity,
David

Conversion Therapy Ban in Philadelphia

Posted by david_nwpa on December 9, 2016 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Ms. Fitzpatrick:

 

On behalf of the 26,000 supporters on Facebook who have followed our work for the LGBTQ community of Pennsylvania, allow me to thank you for the work you do in support of our community in Philadelphia. I am David E. Moore, President and Founder of the Pennsylvania Equality Project (formerly, Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania). Our organization began in 2011 fighting for full equal rights, and an end to discrimination in Pennsylvania. I am quite pleased to read this morning that the city of Philadelphia is actively considering a ban on the use of conversion therapy against minors. Children are the most vulnerable people in our community, and often the least vocal about their concerns.

 

We started a petition to ban conversion therapy across Pennsylvania in support of Pennsylvania House Bill 935, and Pennsylvania Senate Bill 45. To date, that petition has gained over 7,700 signatures, and continues to get more by the day. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania legislature seems to be unwilling to move forward with the legislation, and therefore, cities must act. I am quite pleased that Pittsburgh has considered a similar ban, and with Philadelphia taking the same action, I am hopeful that their ordinance will pass.

 

I have attached a copy of the signatures on our statewide petition, many of whom are from Philadelphia. Please help me spread word of this petition to your city council and Mayor. I am eager for the day when all Pennsylvanians regardless of sexual or gender identity can live free from the discrimination and bigotry that now exist in Pennsylvania.

 

I send you my warmest regards and greetings for the holiday season,

 

Yours truly,

David

Nellie Fitzpatrick is the Director for LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. 


Local Volunteer Leaders Needed

Posted by david_nwpa on November 24, 2016 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)
We are asking as many people across Pennsylvania as possible to come forward as local volunteer leaders for the Pennsylvania Equality Project. Allow me to take this opportunity to explain as clearly as I can what these leaders will do and why we are at such a crucial time.

Our rights are under attack. We can be married tomorrow, and fired on Monday. We can be denied housing, education, lodging, service in a restaurant or any other public business, all because Pennsylvania's non-discrimination laws do not accept sexual or gender identity, real or perceived, as a protected class under Pennsylvania law. Our legislature at the state-level has become considerably more conservative, which leaves us until 2018 needing to take action at the local level. What will that action entail?

First, we need to work as local PEP groups to meet at town and borough council meetings to address approving local ordinances that grant protection from discrimination. Our voices should not be dismissed, nor drowned out just because someone else tells us not to bother pursuing these ordinances. Frankly, we have waited long enough. If our state leaders in Harrisburg will not proceed, then we must make our voices heard locally.

Second, we hold candlelight vigils at town and borough buildings, and we bring not only our friends but also the local media. We draw attention to our plight, and we make it known that we are not going away. Our opponents are coordinated and don't want us to demand full equality. We cannot allow that to detract us at all. These vigils must, at all times, remain peaceful forms of protest against a system that is designed to keep us as unequal.

Third, we circulate petitions, make phone calls, write letters to legislators and to the editors of newspapers. Nothing about this third measure is glamorous, nor is it attractive or sexy. It is not meant to be any of those things. It is the basic, tedious, and sometimes mundane process of getting our voice out to the public. Expect backlash, and sometimes, expect torment. Together we will overcome those who don't want us to be free of discrimination. 

Fourth, meet with local business leaders and encourage them to post our "Open to All" business posters in their customer areas. When we have small businesses supporting us, we can clearly see who our allies are. Shop and do business at those locations. As local volunteer leaders, you are empowered to offer free business links on our website.  We want to let others know that these businesses support our cause.

Fifth, local groups should also socialize and gain strength just from our existing. If you belong to other organizations such as PFLAG, encourage their members to join our cause. Invite PFLAG members to join us at our candlelight vigils and letter writing parties. While we take our cause seriously, we should still have some fun while doing it. 

Local groups should also exchange their ideas with one another. Tell each other what works in your area, and what did not work so well. Share your successes with us, and we will share them with the world. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but if we don't do it, who will? Who will fight for our rights and our freedom from discrimination, if we don't take action ourselves?

In solidarity,
David

We are not equals

Posted by david_nwpa on November 21, 2016 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We are not equals. If you are heterosexual, you have more rights than people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. The claim has been made that we are all treated equally thanks to marriage equality. Think again:

 

In ten countries, and in ISIS held territories, gay men can and have been killed for committing same-sex sexual acts on one another, even if consensual. Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Mauritania, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are all on that list. People caught in homosexual sex acts in Libya are targets for ISIS and other people who will kill them.

 

In the United States, 12 states still have laws on the books outlawing consensual same-sex sodomy, even though the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all those laws as unconstitutional.

 

In Pennsylvania, you can be married on Friday, and when you go to work on Monday, you can be fired as soon as you change your health insurance forms. You can also...

 

  • Be denied credit
  • Denied lodging
  • Denied a table at a restaurant
  • Denied a taxi cab
  • Denied apartment rental
  • Denied an education

So when you tell me we are all equal, please, check your definition of equality, and let me know how all this balances and sets us on equal footing. To see the video, click here.


In solidarity,

David


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