Panic Street Lawyer: Closer to seeing the light

Sunday, 09 June 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack

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By all accounts, the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee had a successful 2013 conference at Pittsburgh’s William Penn Hotel this past week. And by all accounts, another guest this week at the same hotel – the Boston Bruins hockey club – had a successful week at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center in the 2013 NHL playoffs.

So as early June continuing legal education programs -- and as Pittsburgh Penguin hopes of continuing further in search of Lord Stanley’s cup -- come to an end, what comes next? For me, the next few weeks are highlighted by the beginning of the Pittsburgh outdoor concert scene and the end of the United States Supreme Court term. The weekly PSL task, as always, is now to connect what appears to be detached.

Here are just some of the musicians who will be appearing and performing – weather permitting of course -- in Western Pennsylvania in the first half of summer 2013:

June 9: Bob Mould, Hartwood Acres (free)
June 12: Of Monsters and Men, Stage AE (sold out)
June 15: The Airborne Toxic Event, Point State Park (free)
June 28: Anders Osborne and Jason Isbell, Schenley Plaza (free)
July 13: Belle & Sebastian and Yo La Tengo, Stage AE
July 16: The Flaming Lips, Stage AE
July 17: Gin Wigmore (part of Vans Warped Tour), First Niagara Pavilion
July 18: fun. and Tegan & Sara, Stage AE (sold out)

The first and last entries above require elaboration on my part.

Bob Mould, age 52, was born in upstate New York near the Canadian border and attended college in central Minnesota. He is best known as the guitarist, singer, and songwriter for alternative rock bands Husker Du (1979-1988) and Sugar (1992-1995). Mould has also recorded and performed songs as a solo artist, which is when he released his most popular single, “See A Little Light” (it reached #4 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Track chart in 1989):

A tribute concert to Bob Mould and his music was held in Los Angeles on November 21, 2011, and filmmakers of that concert recently reached a Kickstarter funding goal.

Tegan and Sara Quin, age 32, are twin sisters born and raised in Alberta. Since 2005 they have recorded seven albums and performed in an indie rock band that bears their name. They have been nominated for Grammy and Juno Awards, and on June 16 they will find out whether they won a 2013 MuchMusic Video Award for their latest single, “Closer” (it reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart this year):

Tegan and Sara are currently touring in the UK.

Bob Mould, Tegan Quin and Sara Quin are extremely talented musicians who also happen to be openly gay. Their public pronouncements on the subject vary, perhaps in part reflecting a generational divide. Although Mould is not known as someone who discusses politics (personal or otherwise) on stage or on Twitter, he did write about it in great detail in his 2011 autobiography (also entitled “See a Little Light”). In a Chicago Sun-Times interview on the subject, he had this exchange with the paper’s pop music critic:

Q: The book has a different tone in the grumpy first half (when your homosexuality was an open secret) than the cheery second (when you were completely out). I’m intrigued by why you felt it so necessary to “bid a farewell to rock” in order to fully pursue a life as a gay man.

BM: I wanted to reinvent myself as a person. For whatever reasons at the time, it was not possible to be fully myself being constantly beholden to my rock ’n’ roll career. I needed to step off that. I was basically planning my gay identity in ’97-’98, starting to brush up on and then immerse myself in the gay life. I’d never allowed myself that, never had it. The more I sat in the van, the less I was going to have it. I just needed to spend time around other gay people and basically learn how to be one, which I wasn’t getting in punk rock. The two were not going to co-exist. Now I know better, but at the time I thought I really needed to let go of this.

On the other hand, Tegan and Sara both talk about politics between songs on stage and tweet (to almost 300,000 followers) on subjects that matter to the LGBT community. Two months ago they were on the cover of The Advocate’s annual “40 Under 40” issue. Two weeks ago they posted online their personal support for the NOH8 Campaign.

supreme court buildingAs stated on its website, the NOH8 Campaign “is a photographic silent protest created in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8 [passed in California in 2008, amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage]. Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with ‘NOH8’ painted on one cheek in protest.” State Prop 8 was challenged in court and declared unconstitutional, first by a federal district court and then by a federal court of appeal. The United States Supreme Court agreed to a hear a further appeal this term (Hollingsworth v. Perry).

The Perry case is one of two marriage equality cases which the Supreme Court will rule on sometime this month. The other case (United States v. Windsor) is a consideration of one of two federal courts of appeal decisions which declared unconstitutional one section of a 1996 federal law defining marriage as between only a man and a woman for more than 1,000 laws and programs. Lambda Legal, a legal organization committed to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV, prepared an “informative infographic” explaining how the Court may decide each case.

statecapitol 150Who can marry under Pennsylvania law? If you click on Lambda Legal’s national “Marriage and Relationships” map, you will see a big gap in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region stretching from Maine down to Maryland where same sex marriages or civil unions are legal. That illegality gap is here, in Pennsylvania.

Are Commonwealth legislators any closer to seeing the light on this issue? The answer appears to be a lukewarm “yes.” Progress in “the Keystone State” was last month’s news that the re-introduction of the Pennsylvania House equivalent of Prop 8 was co-sponsored by the fewest number of representatives ever.

One or both of the Supreme Court decisions on this subject may help clear the way for the day when Pennsylvania does recognize same-sex marriages. If those decisions come down this week, then the Pittsburgh LGBT community can celebrate them at Saturday’s “Pride in the Street” event. There will be outdoor music …

(Top image: olaf herschbach/Getty Images)


The Panic Street Lawyer is a personal opinion column by attorney Jay Hornack. Contact him right here at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow Jay on Twitter: @panicstlawyer

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