Sixteen people were sworn in Friday as members of Pittsburgh’s new LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council. The group aims to find ways to meet the needs of the city’s LGBT community and offer strategies for implementing inclusive policies.
City Council President Bruce Kraus, who is the first openly gay man to hold his position, said while Pittsburgh has recently implemented LGBTQIA+-friendly policies, it’s key that people continue to advocate for themselves.
“There will always be those who feel that we are, in some way, lesser members of society,” Kraus said. “We are active and vital members of this community, and of this society, and we contribute in ways that would probably take me the entire morning to list.”
The 16 members were announced in November from a pool of nearly 80. Kraus said individuals on the council reflect the city’s diversity.
“If you look around this room, you are going to see a genuine and authentic representation of what it means to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community here in Pittsburgh,” Kraus said.
Council member Julian Arney, 28, said the timing of the group’s formation is important, considering the policies supported by officials in the incoming Trump administration.
“We really heavily relied on the federal government in the last few years to kind of propel us forward as states, as local communities,” Arney said. “So now I really see this as an opportunity to safeguard all the great progress that we have made.”
Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin told the crowd that city leaders are preparing for “a very different relationship with Washington” under the Trump administration. He said those in public office in Pittsburgh would work to protect residents' civil liberties, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It’s really the work that we’re asking of all of you to do here today,” Acklin said. “And as an ally here in city government, to work hard to make sure all the advancements we’ve made aren’t rolled back as a matter of law or policy.”
The council will meet monthly and deliver a report to the mayor’s office on a quarterly basis. Arney said members will form subcommittees to address specific issues in the LGBTQIA+ community such as homelessness, access to health care, income disparities and public safety.