Thanks to my friend and LGBT activist Mark Szabo for bringing this week’s hero to my attention. It’s a delight to recognize hard work for equality in places where the struggle is more than a little uphill. This week the Helena, MT city commission UNANIMOUSLY approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and many kinds of public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s a big step for the capital of one of 29 states that still provides no consistent protection for its LGBT citizens.
Special recognition goes to Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath. She sponsored the ordinance and spent hours working with her colleagues to ensure language that could pass. She spoke passionately and clearly about the importance of the ordinance:
I believe, and I felt the commissioners believe, that being LGBT is part of the human condition. It’s something that people cannot change, and we believe that people should not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Brava! The public hearing was animated but civil, with more than twice as many supporters as detractors. The opponents typically played the bathroom/locker room card, displaying their sad ignorance. Unfortunately, that concern watered down the ordinance, with an amendment forcing transgender residents to use facilities “where people ordinarily appear in the nude” designated for their “anatomical sex.” To Commissioner Haque-Hausrath’s credit, she pushed hard against the amendment, proposing one of her own that would negate it.
Despite this notable flaw, the ordinance provides broad protections that are simply part of civil rights. Congratulations to Commissioner Haque-Hausrath and her colleagues for being leaders in their state.
We have a delightful honorable mention this week. Remember the Easy Bake Oven? Hasbro still makes it, albeit with a very modern, updated look. McKenna Pope, a 13-year-old girl in New Jersey, wanted to buy one for her younger brother. She was concerned that the pastel purple or pink color options wouldn’t appeal to him, and mounted a petition to have Hasbro produce a wider range of colors. She recorded a YouTube video and got the petition on Change.org.
Things really heated up when celebrity chef Bobby Flay spoke up in support of wider options for the toy, making the obvious point that baking is no more just for girls than tools are just for boys. Hasbro did the right thing, introducing three new colors (black, silver, and blue). Now Easy Bakers –boys and girls — can get an oven in a color they like rather than one that plays into outmoded stereotypes. Says McKenna Pope,
[Hasbro] really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do, and they really amazed me.
Nicely done Hasbro, and big thanks to McKenna Pope and Bobby Flay.
Don’t forget that TSM is still taking nominations for Hero of the Year Award.