This letter to the editor was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.

On July 30, LebTown published a story about Representative Diamond’s press release. Repurposing Dr. Levine’s thoughtful, well-written statement about LGBTQ discrimination into a false-equivalency missive against science is unacceptable, particularly from one of our elected officials. It would be nice to see Representative Diamond apologize, if not to the LGBTQ community, at least to Dr. Levine. Or, if his intention was to mock her statement and the community, he should own up to it rather than trying to claim he’s being misunderstood.

Concerning the representative’s ongoing crusade against science, we need only look at examples such as Florida to see what happens when communities reopen without taking appropriate measures. Those measures include both individual actions — wearing masks correctly, washing our hands, watching our distance – as well as community measures like widely available rapid-result testing, effective contact tracing, and isolating/quarantining positive cases and their likely contacts. These actions have had demonstrable positive effects in countries such as New Zealand, South Korea, and many more. They are also based on the best understanding of experts in the fields of medicine and epidemiology.

As an elected official, Representative Diamond should listen to his constituents’ concerns, including their concerns about wearing masks. I understand that some people fear losing their personal freedom. But ironically, in this case, wearing a mask will actually increase our freedom and ability to resume some sense of normalcy. There are times when there is a real difference of opinion about what facts mean. Here, the representative seems to be arguing against the facts themselves.

Representative Diamond has also published letters from individuals who cannot wear masks due to previous trauma. Some people said these were fake, partly because Diamond encouraged constituents in a post on his official Facebook page to pretend to have a medical condition to avoid wearing masks. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, because there are people who cannot wear masks due to mental or physical health issues. However, the percentage of people who aren’t wearing masks, or who are advocating for not wearing masks, is much greater than those who legitimately cannot do so. This, in turn, actually makes it harder on those individuals, by fostering mistrust and disbelief within our community.

In closing, this whole debacle in no way benefits Lebanon County. Instead, it further antagonizes Governor Wolf and Dr. Levine, once again places Lebanon in the national news as a source of ridicule, and puts our public health further at risk. It’s time for our officials to do better. And to the LGBTQ members in our community, we should offer support, not further the likelihood that they will be harassed or discriminated against. LGBTQ youth, in particular, are more likely to experience bullying or harassment. National organizations such as GLAAD and The Trevor Project and local ones like Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County and the Central PA LGBT Center provide educational and other resources to help.

Matthew Duvall is an instructional designer and the Democratic candidate for the 102nd legislative district.

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