The fact that Dr. Rachel Levine, the state Secretary of Health, had to take time during her COVID-19 update this week to address attacks on the LGBTQ community is ridiculous.

Levine was forced to take the time because of a recent spate of high-profile attacks against her, a transgender woman, and a minority community that continually faces criticism because of ignorance or a lack of civility.

Locally, we have seen Levine mocked at an event in Columbia County. Last week, a tavern owner in Tioga County apologized for a menu item that also mocked Levine.

Then there was state Rep. Russ Diamond, a vocal critic of Gov. Tom Wolf and Levine throughout the pandemic.

Diamond issued a press release this week that parodied a statement from Levine, equating the struggle of the LGBTQ community with those fighting against wearing a mask. It drew the ire of Gov. Tom Wolf, who called it “abhorrent, disrespectful, dangerous” and a “thinly veiled attack on the LGBTQ community” and Levine. Wolf demanded that GOP House leadership censure Diamond.

“To equate any disrespect for those not wearing masks to the decades of disrespect, threats and violence against our LGBTQ community goes far beyond the hallmarks of a decent society. For these actions to come from a legislator elected to fairly represent all his constituents is simply unforgivable,” a statement from the governor said.

We’ve got to be better than this and remain focused on the key tasks required to emerge from our current health crisis.

For her part, Levine has handled the attacks as well as can be expected. Levine’s statements are worthy of attention. We can learn a lot about how the LGBTQ community views the issues they face.

“We all need to foster that spirit of acceptance and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals and celebrate the wonderful diversity of our commonwealth,” Levine said.

“Our children are watching. They are watching what we do and they are watching how we act. To all LGBTQ young people, it is okay to be you. It is okay to stand up for your rights and your freedoms.

“As for me…I have no room in my heart for hatred and frankly I do not have time for intolerance. My heart is full with a burning desire to help people and my time is full with working towards protecting the public health of everyone in Pennsylvania from the impact of the global pandemic due to COVID-19.”

Levine is not immune from criticism of her handling of parts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of those criticisms are valid and worthy of discussion.

The rest of the attacks just make getting past our current crisis that much more difficult.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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