Policy & Advocacy Committee
The primary activity of the P&A Committee is to research and develop a policy platform for Liberty City to be approved by the general membership. The platform will become the foundation of the questionnaire produced by the Endorsement Committee to be used as a benchmark of a candidate’s support of our issues. The P&A Committee also acts as the lobbying arm of Liberty City ensuring that members of the organization, as well as lawmakers, and other third parties are aware of and understand the major legislative and public policy issues that are important to Liberty City Democrats.
The Policay & Advocacy Committee will use the blog below to communicate its work to the general membership.
This Tuesday, champions of LGBT rights from both parties introduced HB300/SB300, which would protect Pennsylvanians from discrimination in employment, housing, and accommodations based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We are proud that we currently have 25 cosponsors in the Senate (with all 23 Democrats in support), and 77 cosponsors in the House, with hopefully more to come.
All representatives whose districts are wholly or in part in Philadelphia City Limits have signed on (including Republicans Taylor and Murt), and so have most of the Democrats in Southeastern PA. The only Democratic holdout from the region is Margo Davidson, who represents the 164th district in eastern Delaware County.
Even though we are a Philadelphia based organization, our activism has expanded to the suburbs as well. We are urging our members to contact Representative Davidson and urge fairness and equality for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Representative Davidson can be contacted via email by clicking here or by phone or in person at the contact info below.
With your help, we can bring us one step closer to protecting the LGBT community from being fired, evicted, denied public accommodations, and having administrative violence committed against them just for who they are. Liberty City wholeheartedly supports this legislation as a paramount priority.
The Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club urges the immediate passage of Bill 130224, commonly referred to as the “LGBT Equality Bill”, and thanks the Committee on Labor and Civil Service for accepting this written testimony. We would also like to thank Councilman Kenney for introducing the bill and seeking the input of the transgender community in making it more inclusive to their needs, as well as Councilman Goode for joining Kenney as a co-sponsor. This bill promises to overhaul the city code to be cognizant of life partnerships in all aspects of the law, and seeks to “plug” the holes relating to issues surrounding gender identity.
LGBT Americans have come a long way in the past year. President Obama and other politicians now speak out in favor of gay marriage, the Supreme Court is considering cases challenging Prop 8 and DOMA, and polling shows that across the Commonwealth support continues to grow for same sex couples. Despite this progress, decisions from the Supreme Court won’t give us marriage equality in Pennsylvania; there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians; and people are still discriminated against every day for who they are and who they love. When the federal and state laws fail us, we look locally for good governance and for protection.
From the success of the Equal Benefits Bill in 2011 to the sweeping protections of the LGBT Equality Bill being considered today, City Council has consistently stood up for the LGBT community. Liberty City is proud to support the LGBT Equality Bill and is proud of the leadership City Council shows in its protections of LGBT rights.
But what makes this piece of legislation really stand out is its significant focus on issues important to the transgender community. We are particularly proud of the historic advancements made by this bill to provide crucial healthcare benefits to transgender individuals. The bill will end the discriminatory exclusion of health benefits for transgender city employees covered in the city administered plan by Jan. 1, 2014. This make sense because transgender health needs, including psychotherapy, hormone treatments, laser hair removal, and even gender confirmation surgery are NOT elective, they save lives, and it helps create a more productive workforce. The current exclusions are cruel and not based on sound science. Additionally, the bill creates a tax credit to incentivize private companies to provide the spectrum of trans-related care to the extent that the company covers employees under a health plan.
These changes to provide important transgender health services is enough to make this legislation stand out. But it does not stop there. It seeks to add language to the Fair Practices Ordinance which protects the rights of workers to dress and groom consistent with their gender identity, and to be able to change name and gender on their records without undue hindrance, and for all to use the restroom most conducive to their gender identity. Many transgender people experience extreme emotional, administrative, physical, and even sexual violence when forced into the wrong gender setting, especially when transgender women are forced into men’s spaces, and although the bill does not go far enough in terms of covering such gender segregated accommodations as dressing rooms, hospitals, homeless shelters, and even prisons, to name a few, we believe that this is a good start.
Furthermore, an independent investigation by Liberty City’s Policy & Advocacy Committee concerning the parity between the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the city code yielded four sections where protected categories were mentioned and sexual orientation, but not gender identity, were included. While the bill does not remedy all four omissions, we are proud that two of those sections, concerning non-discrimination in city health centers and non-discrimination by vendors on city contracts towards any business, will have “gender identity” added to them in the bill. We believe that these conforming changes will help enhance the quality of life for, and reduce administrative violence against, the transgender community. The bill also proposes that all collection of gender data on city forms be reduced to an as-needed basis.
The bill also makes strides in recognizing the status of same-sex partnerships. Wherever benefits or responsibilities conferred to married couples are enumerated in the city code, the term “Life Partner” is added to ensure our families have the same rights and access as married couples. This change will enshrine equal protection into the city code, guaranteeing equal access to hospital-visitation and medical decision-making, pension and retirement benefits (including health and welfare), and Survivor/Fallen Hero/Death benefits.
The bill streamlines requirements for same-sex couples to apply for Life Partnership, to make it more in line with what is required of opposite-sex couples to gain a marriage license. To get married, an opposite-sex couple is only required to show photo identification and a social security card. Life Partner applicants however are required to prove they have been financially interdependent for 12 months by showing at least 2 qualifying documents such as a joint bank account statement or a lease with both partners named. This bill reduces the time period down to 3 months and adds proof of common legal guardianship as an additional acceptable qualifying document.
Each election cycle, elected officials from all levels of government have come to Liberty City and have sought the support of our community. And when we have come to before our government asking for help, the record has been mixed. At the federal level we get lip service. In Harrisburg we get silence, at best. We are therefore confronted with the reality that when we need leadership from our government, we must look locally. Please pass this bill. We are proud to support it and proud of those who champion it. It is a bill that does this City and this Council proud, because it shows that Philadelphia is truly a first class city, and in a first class city, there can be no room for discrimination.
A February 2013 poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College showed that 52% of Pennsylvanians support gay marriage, up 33% from a 2006 poll by F&M. Polling also shows increasing support amongst younger Pennsylvanians. Colby Itkowitz, “Majority of State Residents Support Gay Marriage” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, February 7, 2013.http://articles.mcall.com/2013-02-07/news/mc-pa-issues-poll-gay-marriage-20130207_1_gay-marriage-gay-rights-strong-support. Access the Poll results from Franklin and Marshall athttps://edisk.fandm.edu/FLI/keystone/pdf/keyfeb13.pdf.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club recently joined the call for the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia to choose a new superintendent of schools who supports education about sexual health issues. Here is the letter in full.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and for putting the health and welfare of our youth at the forefront of your search for a Superintendent.
Good morning. My name is Sara Jacobson. I am a member of the Board of The Liberty City Democratic Club and the Chair of its Endorsement Committee. I thank the Committee on Law and Government for accepting our testimony on the Equal Benefits Bill. Many of you came before our membership less than a year ago asking for our support in the elections. When we opened our City Council candidate night in the Spring, we asked you to remember our members,notonly on Election Day when you had our votes, but after Election Day as well, when you made decisions that affect us in these halls.
Liberty City was founded in 1994 to build lesbian and gay involvement in the Democratic Party. Our goals include mobilizing LGBT voters; electing LGBT and LGBT-friendly candidates; working to oust anti-gay office holders; and promoting legislative issues of importance to our community. We have approximately 4000 members throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Our membership cares deeply about LGBT equality. They turn to Liberty City for guidance about important legislation like the Equal Benefits Bill, and they vote.
Liberty City supports the Equal Benefits Bill, and thanks Councilwoman Reynolds Brown for introducing it, as well as Councilman Kenney, Councilman Greenlee, and Councilman DiCicco for co-sponsoring the Bill.
Philadelphia needs the Equal Benefits Bill because this bill ensures that our city doesn’t endorse discrimination in its private contracts. This bill says that if you want to do business with our city, you must do right by all its citizens, by providing the same employment benefits to life partners who share the same gender identity as those given to opposite sex couples. Permitting tax dollars to give the benefit of city contracts to businesses that don’t do so, would be a use of tax dollars to endorse discrimination. The Equal Benefits Bill is inclusive, because using the term “gender identity” in its definition of who is covered, contemplates transgender people. The bill shows leadership, placing Philadelphia among a growing list of States and Cities who have passed similar legislation[i]. This bill is smart, because it combats discrimination without costing the city a dime.
A mere eight days ago the members of Liberty City stood in line to vote, and when they voted, they stood up for many of you. They did so because you came to Liberty City and pledged your support for the issues that matter to us. Issues like the Equal Benefits Bill. I ask you to stand up for us now, as we did for you then. Stand up for us by passing this bill.
[i] The State of California and 13 other municipalities (Berkley, CA; King County, WA; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Miami Beach, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Oakland, CA; Olympia, WA; Sacramento, CA; San Mateo County, CA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Tumwater, WA) have legislation similar to Bill #110057. Five other municipalities (Salt Lake City, UT; Portland, ME; Broward County, FL; Sacramento, CA; and Atlanta, GA), have related ordinances, like ordinances that give contract preferences to companies that either have non-discrimination policies or provide equal employment benefits to domestic partners. http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/equal-benefits-ordinances. Councilman Green, in his recent Liberty City candidate questionnaire, noted that the city should consider whether companies provide domestic partner benefits when awarding city contracts. Other members of City Council (Councilman Goode, Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez, and Councilwoman Reed Miller) have indicated they would co-sponsor or support such a Bill in past candidate questionnaires. We thank all of you for such support. See: http://www.libertycity.org/committees/endorsements/questionnaire-archive.html.
This Wednesday, November 16 at 10:00 am, City Council is holding a public hearing on Councilwoman Reynolds Brown's Equal Benefits Bill, legislation that would extend equal benefits for same sex partners. The bill would require contractors accepting service contracts from the City of Philadelphia of $250,000 or more to extend the same employment benefits to life partners of its employees that is extended to spouses of married employees.
Councilwoman Reynolds Brown needs our help to pass this bill and we urge you to voice your support for the Equal Benefits Bill. City Council needs to hear from you now.
Below is the sample letter with the address, telephone numbers and email addresses of the Councilmembers who serve on the Committee on Law & Government (where this bill will be read, debated and voted on). Also included are their legislative aides. We must touch these offices. We ask for your help in contacting them via at least one means of communication.
City Council Contact Information
Re: Bill #110057, Equal Benefits in City Contracting
Dear Council Member ,
I am proud to support the Equal Benefits Bill, #110057, to promote equal benefits in City Contracting. Sponsored by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bill #110057 ensures that all contractors who enter into contracts of $250,000 or more with the City of Philadelphia must extend the same employment benefits to life partners of its employees that are extended to spouses of married employees.
Providing the same benefits to an employee with a life partner, or same-sex or opposite-sex spouse ensures that workers receive equal pay for equal work.
Providing equal benefits also shows respect for the diversity of employees and their individual circumstances. Additionally, treating employees fairly is a sound business practice. A non-discriminatory benefits program enables employers to attract and retain the best and most talented employees, lowers turnover and recruitment costs, and helps improve employee job satisfaction and performance.
Bill #110057 will level the playing field for all employees of Companies that contract with the City of Philadelphia. For those reasons and more, we urge you to vote in favor of Bill #110057.
Should you have any questions regarding our support for this bill, please contact me at <Enter Contact Information>.
<Enter Your Name and Affiliation>
The Liberty City Democratic Club thanks the committee for accepting our written testimony on the importance of HB 300. Our organization was founded in 1994 by activists who wanted to build lesbian and gay power and involvement in the Democratic Party. The goals of our organization are: to register, educate and mobilize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters; to elect openly LGBT candidates to public office; to support LGBT-friendly candidates; to work to oust anti-gay office holders; to promote legislative issues of importance to the LGBT community; and to provide a forum for LGBT voters to meet candidates and officeholders. We have over 4,000 members throughout Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties. Our members, like any LGBT Pennsylvanians, are your family members, your friends, your neighbors, and your constituents.
Liberty City supports HB 300. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression protection to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act will make our Commonwealth a fairer place and a better place to live. This law is necessary, it is fair, and its time has come.
Liberty City Opposes the Nomination of City Solicitor Shelley Smith for Appointment to the Federal Judiciary
The Honorable Senator Robert Casey Jr.
August 22, 2011
Dear Senator Casey:
This letter represents the strongly held views of the Liberty City Democratic Club, and has been approved by its Board. We have recently become aware of Shelley Smith’s candidacy for appointment to the Federal judiciary. In that regard, we write this letter to express our significant concerns with that possible appointment. The primary reasons for our opposition are that Ms. Smith grossly mishandled and lost the case between the City of Philadelphia and the Boy Scouts, Cradle of Liberty Chapter, then failed to support an appeal, and then proposed a sweetheart deal with the Boy Scouts.
Shelley Smith committed fundamental errors in the handling of this case. Those errors include rejecting early offers of pro bono legal help, taking no discovery whatsoever from the national Boy Scouts of America, stating no objection to Judge Buckwalter’s potential bias based upon his board membership of the Boy Scouts, and designating no expert witnesses for trial. These errors demonstrate that Ms. Smith either represented the City incompetently, or intentionally favored the Boy Scouts over her client, the City of Philadelphia. Either way, such behavior should be considered before a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is made.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club today officially joined the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces and called on Philadelphia City Council to pass earned sick days legislation Thursday, June 16th.
"Liberty City has worked tirelessly to promote policies that support LGBT residents and families and we have worked just as tirelessly to elect councilmembers who support those LGBT-friendly policies," said Lee Carson, Co-Chair of Liberty City. "The earned sick days bill is critical in supporting and protecting LGBT families and Liberty City expects LGBT-supportive councilmembers to vote for it."
"Passing the earned sick days bill is an important step forward for LGBT civil rights in Philadelphia." added Liberty City Co-Chair Adah Bush.
Liberty City joins the following LGBT Community and HIV/AIDS leadership organizations in supporting earned sick days legislation: Mazzoni Center, William Way, Action AIDS, Philadelphia AIDS Fund, Philadelphia Family Pride, AIDS Law Project, GALAEI, and Philadelphia Fight.
Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (Bill 080474) would allow Philadelphia workers the opportunity to earn up to 7 days of sick time per year for a large business and up to 4 days per year for a small businesses. It was voted out of the Public Health and Human Services Committee earlier this year. The bill could affect up to 200,000 workers in Philadelphia who do not have access to paid sick days.