LGBTQ+ Advisory Council
In Erie, we strive to be a welcoming, equitable, inclusive community where we celebrate our rich diversity of cultures. Everyone has unique talents, skills, and perspectives. We believe that the color of your skin, the language you speak, the part of the world you come from, the faith you practice, the side of State Street you live on, your age, your customs, your sexual orientation, and your gender preference, all make you the unique person you are and that each and every person brings value to our community.
We created the Mayor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council to inform our team about the issues facing our LGBTQ+ family, friends, and colleagues. The Council is comprised of a diverse group that holds many different vantage points so that we can get a comprehensive view of our community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats through their eyes. We are working together to identify, implement, and communicate projects, programs, and ideas that will make our community even more welcoming and accepting of all residents. If you have a question, concern, or idea, please contact one of our liaisons.
Municipal Equality Index (MEI)
Erie Mayor Joseph Schember and members of the Mayor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council announced on December 9, 2020 that the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2020 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) scorecard for the City of Erie has increased to 80. This record high score for Erie represents a marked improvement from the City’s preliminary 2018 score of 34 out of a possible 100 points.
The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ people who live, work, and visit there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and the city leadership’s public position on equality.
The 2020 Municipal Equality Index rated 506 municipalities of varying sizes drawn from every state, including:
- 50 state capitals
- 200 largest cities in the United States
- 5 largest cities or municipalities in each state
- cities home to the state’s two largest public universities
- 75 cities and municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples
- 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state groups members and supporters.
We, as a community, must ensure that our policies are inclusive and that there are protections in place so that our family and friends cannot be denied the opportunity to work, rent a home, or be served in a public place because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We need to provide pathways to education, health care, and safe spaces.
While all people experience challenges throughout life as they age, battle illness, struggle to fit in, find themselves experiencing homelessness or mental health issues, and work hard to improve their lot in life, these struggles often present far greater challenges for members of our LGBTQ community.
And, those who have various overlapping social identities related to race, gender, sexuality, and class, experience far more dangerous levels of discrimination and oppression. For instance, transphobia, sexism, and racism combine to contribute to the tragic, escalating epidemic of fatal violence against Black and Brown transgender women. This hate does not have a home in our community, and we must be diligent and fight against it with intentionality every day. Every day, we must all strive to do better, to be better.
Because we are better together. Our diversity makes us stronger. In fact, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates that a city’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a key driver of economic growth, serving to attract residents, visitors, and businesses who place a high value on inclusivity.
And, so, we invite the residents of Erie to join together to prove what we’ve known all along – that the vast majority of our residents are accepting and welcoming. We have grit and determination, we are giving, we experience joy from serving others, and when we work together, we can accomplish anything.
For more information on the HRC’s MEI, below are the final reports along with Erie’s MEI Scorecard for 2018, 2019, and 2020.
City Hall LGBTQ+ Liaisons
The Erie City Mayor’s Office liaison to the LGBTQ+ Community is Chief of Staff Renée M. Lamis.
Phone: 814-870-1206 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Erie City Police Department liaison to the LGBTQ+ Community is Lt. Thomas Lenox.
Phone: 814-870-1168 or Email: email@example.com
- Pam Anthony
- Tania Bogatova
- Natalie Braddock
- Kim Conti
- Season Crannell
- Emily Crofoot, supervisor of the High Impact Prevention program at Northwest Alliance. Serves on the Erie County HIV Task Force, works with different community organizations to educate and reduce the stigma of HIV, offers education, prevention and HIV testing to the community, including LGBTQ+ youth and adults.
- Kathy Czarnecki-Smith
- Michael Grasso
- Kyle Hannon Since 2007, Kyle has served as the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Manager for United States Senator Bob Casey. He is current Board Member of the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality (GEAE), and formerly served on the Boards of the Northwest PA Pride Alliance and SafeNET.
- Melina Harden
- Tammie Johnson
- Paul Lukach
- Michael Mahler is a programmer analyst at Erie Custom Computer Applications, Co-editor and webmaster of Erie Gay News, Treasurer for NW PA Pride Alliance, Board Member for Drenched Fur, and serves on the Erie County HIV Task Force.
- Leah Manino, Regional VP of Commercial Lending for Northwest Bank. An Erie native, committed to serving our community through work as President of Greater Erie Alliance for Equality. Other civic roles include President of Lakeshore Community Services, President of Northwest Institute of Research and Director of HANDS.
- Reverend Richard McCarty is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Mercyhurst University and is also an ordained clergyperson in the United Church of Christ, serving Community United Church–a local congregation in Erie. Dr. McCarty holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa; a teacher-scholar in the academic fields of religious studies and ethics. Dr. McCarty offers a wide variety of undergraduate courses on ethics, while also publishing books and journal articles concerning the intersections of religion, ethics, and sexuality. Dr. McCarty has long served on the board and advisory council of the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality, an LGBTQ educational non-profit organization. He currently serves on the LGBTQA Advisory Council for the City of Erie Mayor’s Office. Dr. McCarty has provided diversity training for a wide variety of Erie institutions, including health care organizations, academic groups, faith communities, business corporations, and establishments of entertainment and hospitality. As an ethicist, Dr. McCarty advocates for restorative social justice and a better understanding of human diversity–recognizing that strong communities are those that continue to improve upon mutual respect, boundaries, and accountability.
- Leroy Oglesby
- Lucy Reyes
- Alison Scarpitti
- Kevin Seeker is the owner of Engel O’Neill, an advertising and public relations firm. He sits on the board of several Erie organizations and non-profits. He is a super cool and awesome guy.
- Gary Snyder
- Alex Sphon, NWPA Pride Alliance President, serves on the Erie County HIV task force, Penn State Behrend and Erie School district Alumni, works at National Fuel.
- Caitlyn Strohmeyer is a social worker, community advocate, and a transgender woman. She is employed as a Crisis Clinician at Safe Harbor Behavioral Health of UPMC Hamot – Crisis Services. Caitlyn began living her truth very publicly ten years ago and has since dedicated herself to the cause of LGB and transgender social justice. Caitlyn is Founder, Board Advisor, and former President of TransFamily of NWPA, a transgender support and advocacy organization. Her current focus in the community is working with UPMC Hamot and St. Vincent Hospital to improve the quality of, and access to culturally-competent medical and mental health care for LGBTQ people in the region.
- Rose Marie Surma
- Jackson Surma
- Linda Thomas
- Jewels Frantz
- Jasse Camacho Vera