LGBT-friendly Erie, Pennsylvania is a city with a long and rich history of embracing the belief that diversity is an essential part of what makes a community strong.
From Erie’s working class downtown and Bayfront to its warm and welcoming neighborhoods, Erie is known as a town of industry with a robust economy and bright outlook for the future. But it’s also a place renowned for the kind of quality jobs that allow parents to raise a family as well as an excellent school system and a lifestyle of inclusion.
Erie Mayor Joe Schember calls his home the kind of place “where diversity is valued by all; where the color of your skin, your religion, your ethnic background, your sexual orientation, your language — and even which side of State Street you live on does not matter. What matters are the unique talents, skills and ideas that each person possesses.”
The mayor echoes sentiments that have filled the homes and businesses of Erie with residents who truly value the kind of interdependence that forges lasting community bonds. As the mayor sees it, “Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Diversity is the American way and it makes us stronger as a city, as a nation, as a region.”
And while some may call for walls, Schember is looking to help Erie build bridges. “I am Christian,” he says. “Some people use their faith, unfortunately, to exclude or demean or condemn others. That’s wrong. Look at who Jesus associated with during his time on Earth: He met with people considered sinners by the ‘Holy Men’ of that day. He met with lepers, prostitutes, outcasts. My faith teaches me not to judge others.”
When asked how he arrived at his mindset, the mayor said simply, “My son Joe is gay. I’ll never forget the day he sat down with my wife and I to tell us that. Now, if you asked me before, I couldn’t have predicted how I would react, but when he told us, my immediate reaction was ‘Joe, I love you. You are my son. I could not be prouder of you.” And, we’ve grown closer since that day several years ago.”
It’s a way of looking at life that many in Erie find contagious — and it informs the way city business is conducted as well. “As Mayor,” Schember says, “my mission is to build opportunity, restore hope and transform Erie. I want our neighborhoods to be safe, welcoming places where everyone talks to each other. Our children will get a great education and stay in Erie — an Erie with so many good, family sustaining jobs where crime and violence are non-existent. Most of all, I want a community where everyone respects others and values diversity.”
Last modified: August 8, 2018