Marriage and the religious future

Written by Peter Smith on .


"For years, many states had a tradition of segregation and even articulated reasons why it created a better, more stable society. Similarly, many states deprived women of their equal rights under the law, believing this to properly preserve our traditions. In time, even the most strident supporters of these views understood that they could not enforce their particular moral views to the detriment of another’s constitutional rights. Here as well, sometime in the not too distant future, the same understanding will come to pass."

 Judge John G. Heyburn II, U.S. District Court for Western Kentucky, Feb. 12, 2014

In his decision nullifying part of Kentucky's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, one can only wonder if Judge Heyburn was measuring the "not too distant future" in a matter of hours rather than generations. The legal cases may keep coming for a few years, but it's clear we've passed the tipping point, and the trend toward legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide seems inevitable.

In fact, the decisive turn in this front of the culture war has occurred so quickly that another social milestone -- legalized medical marijuana -- is already upon us, and appears to have passed its own tipping point.

And whereas opponents once could blame such trends on activist judges and the like -- and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is certainly the human tipping point in the gay-marriage debate -- it's clear that the tide of public opinion is turning.

To wit: In 2009, a majority of Pennsylvanians said same-sex marriage should not be recognized. By 2011, a majority said it should. More to the point, more people in every age group under 65 support rather than oppose gay marriage recognition, with those under 35 agreeing by more than a 2-1 margin, according to a survey by the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

And the Franklin & Marshall College found a similar reversal.

And these trends are being felt deep in the Heartland, including my old Kentucky stomping ground.

When that state passed its constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, the Bluegrass Poll showed support for the ban across all regions and age groups, in both major political parties and most religious categories.

But earlier this year, while a majority of state residents remained opposed, the latest Bluegrass Poll showed young adults in Kentucky polling 47 to 33 percent in favor of gay marriage. Only a minority of Democrats are opposed, and Kentucky's most urban region is evenly split. Similar demographics were the most supportive of legalized medical marijuana.

Such overhauls prompted a veteran Kentucky political observer to predict trouble among younger generations for Republicans in a state they have largely dominated in recent national elections. 

That's an issue for religious groups, too. Some will stick to their traditional opposition to same-sex marriage on principle, some will support it on principle, some may do one or the other for pragmatic reasons of appealing to one constituency or another. 

In fact, many religious opponents to same-sex marriage have switched to a rear-guard strategy of seeking protections for religious groups and vendors who don't want to participate in such weddings.

The fact is that the young are both less religious and more liberal on gay marriage. It's hard to know which came first, the secularism or the tolerance, but they clearly trend together. 

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Town Meeting examines progress of African American sports experience

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Paul Zeise JT Thomas photo by Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette

Paul Zeise listens to J.T. Thomas discuss race during his playing career in college and the NFL Thursday morning at the Fairmont Hotel in Pittsburgh. (Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette photos)

Are American sports fans blind to color?

This and many other questions were the focus of a Post-Gazette Town Meeting Thursday morning at the Fairmont Hotel.

WNBA player Swin Cash said the answer is 'no' and cited the reaction on social media to Richard Sherman's NFC championship post-game interview as evidence.

Cash was part of a four-person panel that consisted of former Steeler J.T. Thomas, current Steeler Will Allen and Post-Gazette sports writer Paul Zeise. Post-Gazette's Executive Editor David Shribman moderated the discussion for 300 attendees.

JT Thomas photo by Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette

J.T. Thomas is the winner of four Super Bowls with the Steelers and the first black player at Florida State University. He said the Steelers locker room was still quite segregated when he arrived in 1973. But it certainly wasn't as bad as the treatment he sometimes received at FSU. "I used to get letters before games at FSU from the KKK," he said. "And I'm not talking about the Kool Kolor Klan."

Paul Zeise photo by Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette

Shribman asked each of the panelists which African American athlete had the most influence on them. For Paul Zeise, it was John Chaney, a Hall of Fame basketball coach who had a prolific career at Temple. Zeise did his graduate work at Temple during some of the years when Chaney coached, and he appreciated the coach's accessibility.

Will Allen photo by Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette

Will Allen, safety for the Steelers, acknowledged the difficulty Michael Sam could face in attempting to become the first openly gay NFL player. "His entrance is the next barrier" that could come down in sports, Allen said.

Swin Cash photo by Ethan Magoc Post-Gazette

 Swin Cash has roots in McKeesport. She also has two NCAA national titles, three WNBA championships and two Olympic gold medals. Still, as for other female athletes, her struggle today remains equally difficult to gain recognition as a female as it did for African Americans in prior generations. "Women are still fighting," she said, referencing the fact people overlooked the WNBA championships her team brought to Seattle well before the Seahawks finally won this year. "Still trying to get visibility and acknowledgment that we are the best in the world."

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Chevron sent pizza coupons to Bobtown residents after gas explosion

Written by Pittsblogher on .

Chevron endured criticism on blogs and social media today for giving residents in about 30 homes near the Dunkard well site a gift certificate for pizza at a local restaurant, Bobtown Pizza, in the aftermath of the massive gas well explosion on Feb. 11.   

Chevron spokeswoman Lee Ann Wainwright said in an email that the company handed them out to residents affected by the sudden activity in the area as a "token of appreciation" for their patience — and to support Bobtown Pizza, which provided food for first-responders and workers on the well site.
"Our operation response has included a lot of construction activity which has resulted in increased traffic and congestion in the area," said Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver in a conference call Tuesday
Chevron went door to door to distribute the coupons. Residents appreciated company officials visiting their homes, Mr. Oliver said.
The sentiment online was not as kind.






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A city vision that's on the level

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Infrastructure presents a great challenge and great opportunity to cities looking to the future, from the redesign of storm water collection to the remaking of streets.
Atlantic Cities today features a look at the opportunity Syracuse, N.Y. has to regain a stolen piece of its urbanity by tearing rerouting I-81, a national highway that cuts through the core of the city.
In “The Future of Urban Freeways Is Playing Out Right Now in Syracuse,” Amy Crawford writes about one leader’s interest in correcting the suburban mindset of city planners in the mid-20th century. Van Robinson, a member of the Syracuse Common Council, proposes to reroute I-81 around Syracuse and build on its current footprint a landscaped boulevard. 
“But suburban business-owners and many of the 45,000 drivers who use the highway to commute fear that any change could hurt the local economy,” the article reads. “It’s a debate that goes beyond the immediate question of how Syracuse workers will get to work — to what kind of city Syracuse will be in the 21st century.
It continues: 
“Similar discussions are happening across the United States, says John Norquist, president of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which publishes an occasional list of interstates ripe for demolition. Many urban freeways — a staple of mid-20th century car-centric development — are beginning to fall apart, and today cities from New Haven to Seattle (not to mention others around the world) are taking the dramatic step of tearing them down.”
Now that society has become more city-friendly, this idea resonates on several fronts in Pittsburgh.
A couple of years ago, Carnegie Mellon University architecture and design students came up with a brainstorm to drop Route 65 to street level as it passes through Manchester and Chateau on the North Side. Their brainstorm went much further, with designs to make Chateau — which is almost wholly industrial — into a more liveable place.
By dropping Route 65, the roadway would be part of the neighborhood and tie Manchester and back Chateau together. A landscaped boulevard with consideration for pedestrians could be a game-changer for both neighborhoods.
The 579/Veterans Bridge atrocity is too new to be “ripe for demolition” but in my bag of fantasies, that roadway disappears and becomes a boulevard that reintroduces Downtown to the Hill at pedestrian scale.
Mr. Robinson's vision sets a good example and it begins with this quote from the article: "Who in the world would put an interstate through the middle of a city?”
But that's not the last word. I-81's current path through Syracuse benefits outlying communities just as Route 65 serves interests in Bellevue and further upriver. If you pulled traffic down to the level where people walk and slowed it, would it be as likely to shoot through to these communities?
Every potential solution has a consequence, but it can be argued that strength should not be nurtured from the outside in but from the inside out. A suburb is only as strong as the metro hub that gave it birth.


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On President's Day, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in tweets

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

She never gets bored when President’s Day rolls around. And many Pittsburghers have learned to look for her tweets from @EleanorsTrouser Twitter account on the third Monday of February.  

Being a federal government employee, she’s one of the lucky people in Pittsburgh to have this Monday off. She is staying busy tweeting little-known facts about U.S. presidents. She wanted to remain anonymous, so we've promised to respect her wish, but here’s what you need to know about the person behind Eleanor's Trousers.

The Eleanor’s Trousers Twitter account evolved from the blog with the same name.

She’s always been a huge Eleanor Roosevelt fan, and when looking for a catchy tagline for her blog eight years ago, a witty quote by the former First Lady stood out:

“No, I have never wanted to be a man. I have often wanted to be more effective as a woman, but I have never felt that trousers would do the trick!”

She lives in Lawrenceville and works in a federal agency’s human resources office. She moved to Pittsburgh more than a decade ago after growing up in Atlanta, where her mother teaches U.S. history.

When she decided to start tweeting random facts about U.S. presidents on this day in 2012, they were generally easy to come by.

“I actually have a decent collection of history books at home. Being a daughter of a history teacher, you tend to end up with biographies and other histories,” she said.

The rest of the facts she finds on Google and keeps on her phone. The jokes, though, are spontaneously paired with facts in her tweets.


In 2012, it was more spontaneous, as she went about furiously finding facts on the fly. Since then, she’s begun stockpiling here and there.

“I do enjoy the history,” she said. “I don’t so much tweet to be political about one president or the other. I think it’s interesting to see different times and strange quirks.”

Americans often see past presidents’ portraits and think only of the political events of their era, she said.

“But they all had interesting lives and were all humans,” she said. “Some of them better humans than others.”

 As long as Twitter and presidential trivia are around, she said, she'll keep this up. Her personal favorite? This one, about Andrew Jackson's profane parrot.


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