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July 16, 2009


The United State Post Office claims that "diversity means building an inclusive environment that respects the uniqueness of every individual and encourages the contributions of people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives."

They also claim that their "commitment to diversity is unwavering. The United States Postal Service has been recognized for its commitment to creating an inclusive work environment. We have been ranked among the "50 Best Companies for Minorities" by Fortune magazine."

So why then was the gay pride display in the lobby of Milwaukee's downtown post office taken down just 4 hours after it had been installed?

According to a story published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, letter carrier Dale J. Schuster, chairman of the post office diversity team, had written permission from the post office's diversity manager to put up a Gay Pride exhibit, so long as the display didn't contain anything too controversial or political. So Schuster contacted Maggi Cage, head of the Milwaukee Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center, with the idea of collaborating on the exhibit.

The display was created the morning of June 1, the very day President Barack Obama proclaimed LGBT Pride Month in America. It included photos of famous gay people, historical information and a giant AIDS awareness stamp in glass cases.

Four hours later, Maggi Cage said that she started getting calls saying, 'I can't find that exhibit at the post office,' so she sent some of her staff down there, and the cases were empty.

Marge Oehlke, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in the Milwaukee area, had the exhibit taken down saying, "It did not fit our qualifications."

When Schuster showed the written permission from the diversity manager, Oehlke said that he wasn't high enough up the chain of command and that the Postmaster had to approve it.

According to the article, Oehlke also claimed that:

The post office operations manual spells out that these exhibits must be "revenue related," meaning something about stamp purchases, stamp collecting, packaging, new products and such. The AIDS stamp isn't for sale anymore, and therefore doesn't count.

Ironically, Oehlke also serves on the diversity team but she denied that the removal was because of the gay theme. The Journal Sentinel writer, Jim Stingl, asked to be put in touch with Postmaster Charles Miller, but that never happened.

Because of this incident, Schuster resigned his position as Diversity chairman and, because postal rules say he can't talk to the media, he said in an e-mail to Cage, "In light of the controversy over the pride month display being taken down, I had no other recourse than to resign. I believe it is important that everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and that nobody should feel excluded."

"I think it's plain and simple homophobia," Cage said. "I really do think it's a case of discrimination."


Anonymous said...

I am also a member of the Milwaukee Diversity Team in the USPS. Though our Chairperson had written approval and yet it was take down, it has found a new home in The Milwaukee City Hall. It is on display there with the full approval of the Mayor of Milwaukee!

Queers United said...

It's really sad that this sort of gay censorship is happening in 2009.

Steve Krotz said...

Thanks for the info. I'm glad the exhibit found a new home. Your Mayor is to be commended for standing up for what is right. Hopefully the Postmaster will issue an apology for what was done.

BTW - I know Milwaukee pretty well. I grew up in Fox Lake, IL and had been up there a number of times over the years.

Steve Krotz said...

I also got a email from Dale Schuster late this afternoon. This is what he said:


Regarding your story about the GLBT Pride Display being taken down at the Milwaukee Post Office, I am glad to report that it is now on display at City Hall in Milwaukee. The FOX television station did a report on it last night. It can be seen at fox6now.com.

Dale J. Schuster"

Thanks Dale. I'll check out the news coverage.
Also, thanks for standing up for all of us. It's definitely appreciated!