New commissions aim to improve racial equity and LGBTQIA+ rights. Can they make Pittsburgh more welcoming? – PublicSource – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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The City of Pittsburgh is hoping to take an intersectional approach to improving living conditions for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and racial minorities through the work of two new commissions.

“Pittsburgh has not been the most welcoming city for various different segments of our population,” said Chris Robinson, a co-chair of the city’s LGBTQIA+ Commission. “This is certainly one step towards being able to advance human rights, social justice and equity here within our city.”

Robinson cautioned that it’s not an overnight fix. Success will depend on commitment. 

The Pittsburgh City Council approved the creation of the LGBTQIA+ Commission and Commission on Racial Equity in July 2020. A year and a half later, they vary in their progress. The LGBTQIA+ Commission is setting up its bylaws and goals, while the Commission on Racial Equity has yet to meet. 

And some activists are concerned that the commissions won’t do enough to address the urgent issues facing residents.

“I have quite a litany of concerns going back 70 years of what the city of Pittsburgh has engaged in, and that’s done real damage to many of these communities, to many people’s lives,” said community activist Randall Taylor.

As Mayor Bill Peduto’s tenure ends and Mayor-elect Ed Gainey prepares to take office, both commissions are still in their infancy. We spoke to members and activists to learn more about their work, the scope of the problems they’re facing and what to look for in the future.

LGBTQIA+ Commission

The LGBTQIA+ Commission is tasked with advocating for equity for the LGBTQIA+ community and serving as a liaison between the city government and LGBTQIA+ residents. The group also plans to focus on how racial inequity impacts members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Commission members began submitting applications to join in July 2020, and City Council appointed its first 18 members in February, with one new addition in September. Members work in various fields, including health care, higher education, activism, religion and business.

They view intersectionality as crucial to the


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