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Valley Chamber of Commerce Starting Gay Council

Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce will kick off its Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender Business Initiative.

Those in the Lehigh Valley who would like to turn back the clock on gay rights can pack it in right now. Game over. The fat lady has sung. 

I say that because the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce – not exactly a charter member of Queer Nation -- is holding a kick-off event Friday morning for its new Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Business Initiative. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Allentown Bethlehem Airport at 1787-B Airport Road in Allentown. 

It’s the first step toward starting an LGBT council within the Chamber that would provide networking and other opportunities and resources for LGBT business owners and employees.  

I can think of few more solid indicators that the gay rights movement has arrived than to have such a bastion of the establishment embrace it. The LGBT council will join other groups within the Chamber, such as the Women’s Business Council and the Young Professionals Council, as a sort of chamber within a Chamber. 

Tony Iannelli, president of the Lehigh Valley Chamber, which he says is the ninth largest in the nation, acknowledged that establishing an LGBT council has “raised a few eyebrows.” But he said it is both good for business and the right thing to do. 

“What has made us successful is when we feel there’s a demand…we try to recognize that market and build a partnership with it,” he said. 

Some of the larger companies in the Valley, such as PPL and Air Products, already have gay and lesbian resource groups that meet in the workplace. 

“When PPL created domestic partnership benefits for their employees it really came out of requests from this group,” according to Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, a nonprofit advocacy group for the LGBT community. “It’s not controversial anymore to say that the business community supports the idea that people should be employed based on their talent, not their sexual orientation. It’s in their best interest to have a top, talented workforce.” 

If only Harrisburg would catch up. “Just about everyone else is leaps and bounds ahead of our state Legislature who has yet to vote on a non-discrimination law,” said Shanker, who worked with the Valley Chamber on Friday’s LGBT council kick-off. 

A poll last year showed 69 percent of Pennsylvanians support prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, yet the Legislature drags its feet.

Iannelli told me that many Chambers around the country don’t join forces with groups representing a certain demographic, as his organization does with the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “You have got to be open and flexible to building partnerships to these varying communities,” he said. 

Maybe that’s how the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber got to be among the largest in the country – by avoiding backward thinking. 

Jonathan Gerard January 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
This is not the whole story. It is not even a biblical story. But it is part of a moral legacy that includes another command from Leviticus, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor." If we see someone sinning in a way that is hurting another human being then, unlike in American law, the Torah ("God's word") requires us to intervene and stop the assault on the victim. God wants God's creatures to worry about people first and God later because the first automatically fulfills the second while the reverse is not guaranteed.
Lee Snover January 21, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Rabbi, In this case, we do not have to "guess" as to whether the person is sinning in God's eyes, they are proudly declaring it. You presume that this behavior has no effect on other people and does not hurt the person engaging in the behavior, I beg to differ and so does the Bible. God understood that the family, consisting of a husband and a wife living in commune with the Lord was best for man. It is essential to the propagation of man kind, and I believe it is essential for the well being of children as well. Man (and Woman), chose to disobey God and blatantly ignored His one command (don't eat from THAT tree). As a result, we all now are born with a sin nature, separated from God, and inclined to Sin. This broke God's heart, and even though this situation is entirely OUR fault, He provided a way back into communion with Himself, through Jesus Christ, who is our propitiation for sin. He paid for our sin with His own life and blood, willingly, while we still were His enemy. So, there's a good chance that this is just a fairy tale to you, but I believe it. Did eating from the tree "hurt" anyone else? Physically, no. The sin was PRIDE and lack of faith. Adam and Eve thought they knew better then God. The did the crime and we are all doing the time. The CONSEQUENCES continue to this day. You say you can not know God and His will, yet you pretend to "know" there are not ramifications to this behavior that the Lord clearly condemns. Et tu Adam?
Emmaus Resident January 25, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Mary Anne, You are funny-- like Austin Powers... "There are two types of people that I can't stand in this world. People who are insensitive of other people's culture, and the Dutch." You could have said that, but Austin Powers said it first. Have a great day, but PLEASE don't become an attorney or a philosopher. You wouldn't last a day.
Emmaus Resident January 25, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Sorry-- the quote is from Nigel Powers...Austin's dad.
Frank August 10, 2012 at 12:37 AM
"Diviant life style"? Besides ignorance, do you have any proof?

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