With the municipal primary just weeks away, an openly gay candidate vying to represent Philadelphia’s Gayborhood in Harrisburg has picked up key LGBT endorsements.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club voted Tuesday night to endorse attorney Brian Sims for the 182nd District in the Pennsylvania House. Sims is challenging longtime incumbent and LGBT ally Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182nd Dist.).
Additionally, Equality Pennsylvania, of which Sims was formerly president, also endorsed him this week.
The Liberty City endorsement came after a lengthy debate that split the room at Gershman Y.
The endorsement committee, which makes recommendations to the general membership, backed Josephs for endorsement, but the membership voted down that recommendation, 24-14.
Supporters of both candidates took the floor in their favor in a discussion that endorsement committee chair Sara Jacobson said was “spirited but respectful.”
“People felt very strongly on both sides,” she said. “People spoke out in support of Babette and people spoke out in support of Brian, so there was a lot of support on both sides.”
The eventual endorsement was made in a 22-12 vote, Jacobson said.
Jacobson declined to specify why the committee was favoring an endorsement for Josephs, but said that decision was preceded by an involved and purposeful conversation.
“We spent a very long time talking about it, probably as long as we did talking about every other race on the ticket,” she said. “It was a very thoughtful discussion.”
A lot of attention was also given to the 188th District race, in which longtime incumbent James Roebuck is being challenged by bisexual candidate Fatimah Muhammad. The endorsement committee made no recommendation in that race, but the membership voted to endorse Muhammad following a debate that Jacobson noted had a different focus than that of the 182nd.
“The 182nd debate had more to do with the people involved, with people speaking out in support of Brian or Babette as a person, but the 188th debate was more philosophical,” Jacobson said. “The members talked about the idea of if Liberty City should support an out candidate or an incumbent who’s been in office for a while, and who’s been supportive of our issues.”
There was also some back and forth about Sen. Bob Casey. The committee recommended, and members voted to support, that the agency not make an endorsement in that race but instead will reconsider it in the fall.
Jacobson said that, while the senator has supported the community in many instances in the past, there were a number of issues that gave the organization “pause” — such as his lack of support for marriage equality and for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as his recent backing of an anti-birth-control measure.
Endorsement committee member Jason Lewis said that, even if the lack of endorsement in the primary “moves the senator a centimeter” forward on LGBT issues, it would be successful.
Liberty City, as well as Equality PA, also endorsed President Obama for reelection, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for Attorney General and Eugene DePasquale for Auditor General.
Other state candidates endorsed by Liberty City were incumbent Sen. Larry Farnese (1st Dist.); incumbent Reps. Mike O’Brien (175th Dist.), Vanessa Lowry-Brown (190th Dist.), Cherelle Parker (200th Dist.) and Mark Cohen (202nd Dist.); challengers Andrew Kleeman (195th Dist.) and Malik Boyd (198th Dist.); and Steve McCarter (154th Dist.) and Jordan Harris (186th Dist.), who are seeking to fill recent vacancies.
For Immediate Release: March 29, 2012
Philadelphia, PA – Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, the premiere lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization in Pennsylvania, endorsed challengers Brian Sims in the 182nd State Legislative District and Fatimah Muhammad in the 188th State Legislative District at their annual primary endorsement meeting held at the Gershman Y on Tuesday.
"Both Brian Sims and Fatimah Muhammad are out members of the LGBTQ community, but it's not just who they are, but what they've done and pledged to do for the LGBTQ community that won over members. Brian recently served as Board Chairperson of Equality PA, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, and Fatimah was co-founder of Elements, the LGBTQ womyn of color organization,” said Liberty City Co-chairs Lee Carson and Sherrie Cohen.
LibertyCity voted to endorse Sims and Muhammad in order to provide long overdue LGBTQ representation in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania is alone among the 11 states comprising the Northeast region (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania), in providing NO statewide protection against discrimination for LGBT people and NO statewide recognition of our relationships.
This is true even though polls over the past decade show that roughly 70% of Pennsylvanians support an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT people and recent polling shows that 65% of Pennsylvanians think same sex couples should have all the legal rights of marriage.
Pennsylvaniais also one of only two states in the region (with Delaware) to never have elected an openly LGBT representative to its legislature. Many of our neighboring states have numerous out representatives; Maryland, for example, now has eight out state legislators and Massachusetts has seven.
Liberty City hopes that the addition of out and proud LGBT voices to the many strong allies of our community who are representatives in Harrisburg will help jumpstart our community’s desperately needed civil rights legislation that for too long has stalled. The organization is prepared to work hard to turn out voters for both candidates in the April 24th Primary Election.
In the other races, former Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy was endorsed for Pennsylvania Attorney General, President Obama received the endorsement for reelection as president, and Eugene DePasquale received the endorsement for Pennsylvania Auditor General.
Others running for open seats who won Liberty City's endorsement include Steve McCarter for State Representative in the 154th district and Jordan Harris in the 186th. Challengers Malik Boyd (198th) and Andrew Kleeman (195th) also won the group's support.
Incumbent State Senator Larry Farnese (1st District) was endorsed again after continuing to be a champion for the LGBT community. Incumbent State Representatives Mike O’Brien (175th), Vanessa Lowery-Brown (190th), Cherelle Parker (200th) and Mark Cohen (202nd) also received the group's support.
The co-chairs were pleased with the process. "Even in the middle of some passionate debate supporting opposing candidates, the level of civility and discourse was great to see, as always at Liberty City. We know that not all members supported every candidate that was endorsed, but that speaks strongly about the openness of the process and the diversity of opinions represented by this organization,” Carson and Cohen said in a joint statement.
The club will now begin to implement an aggressive "get-out-the-vote" operation on behalf of all Liberty City endorsed candidates.
Here is the complete slate of Liberty City endorsements for the primary election on April 24th:
Liberty City is a progressive, membership-based, political action committee serving the greater Philadelphia region that works within the Democratic Party to achieve and sustain economic and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. www.libertycity.org
City Council is backing a resolution to urge the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority to cease its gender-marker system, which critics say is discriminatory against transgender and gender nonconforming riders.
Reynolds Brown said her measure is meant to enhance understanding of the need for a gender-neutral fare system and take the city closer to that reality. “At the end of the process and debate, we want Philadelphians of all cultures, walks of life and backgrounds to get through each day without feeling discriminated against — without someone dimming their shine,” Reynolds Brown said. “We hope this resolution will move the needle further toward our goal.”
Shortly after President Obama outlined where the nation stands in his State of the Union, Philadelphia’s LGBT leaders came together to delineate where the local LGBT community stands on a number of topics, and where it should focus its attention in the coming year.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club’s State of the City identified a number of areas of focus — including safe spaces for youth, LGBT homelessness, equal access to health care for transgender people and opportunities for economic development — that the local LGBT community can concentrate on in 2012.
The first-of-its-kind discussion, held Feb. 2 at The Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany, was moderated by Liberty City board member Sherrie Cohen and featured remarks from city director of LGBT affairs Gloria Casarez, former city LGBT liaison and founder of The Colours Organization Inc., Mike Hinson, former co-president of OutFront! Kathy Padilla and president of The Attic Youth Center’s Youth Planning Committee Ibrahim Vicks.
The panelists reviewed LGBT accomplishments in the city in the past year, including the progress that was made on the LGBT senior-housing project, the approval of a bill to mandate domestic-partner benefits for partners of employees of city contractors and Mayor Nutter’s vocal support for the national Mayors for the Freedom to Marry movement.
Casarez outlined federal efforts, such as the administration’s decision to end its legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act and the recent adoption by the Housing and Urban Development of LGBT nondiscrimination regulations, noting the impact that pro-LGBT policy changes could have in Philadelphia.
Locally, the city is on the cusp of launching the nation’s first residential treatment facility for transgender individuals, Casarez noted, and efforts have also been made by several city departments, especially those that work with youth and homeless populations, to educate staffers on LGBT issues.
While steps have been taken to support LGBT youth, more outreach and education is needed to ensure young people feel safe in city schools, Vicks said.
“LGBT youth need safer spaces in schools. I’ve had friends who have been really hurt by things people say and do in school,” Vicks said. “Students would say, ‘That’s so gay,’ in some classes and get away with it, but not in others, so the teachers really have to be responsible.”
Casarez added that the ongoing leadership transitions at the school district have hindered the city’s ability to adequately address LGBT youth issues in schools.
Padilla identified a number of aims for the coming year, including enhanced transparency in the Nizah Morris investigation, voter-protection efforts and the launch of an LGBT Community Development Center.
Removing exclusions from health-insurance coverage for transgender city employees, an effort that Padilla said has been underway for about a decade, should also be a community aim this year.
Other unresolved challenges the panelists referenced included the ongoing debate over the Boy Scouts building, SEPTA’s gender markers and unsolved homicides in the community, including that of Morris and Stacey Blahnik.
Despite the breadth of the issues and interests facing the community, Casarez suggested that collaboration could be integral this year.
“Our LGBT community is a community of communities. We’re not one, we’re not whole and we’re not of one particular mindset, need or interest. We as a collective should reject that notion that we are one group. We are many but we do have some points of unity,” she said. “It’s a broad landscape but I firmly believe it’s a great time to be alive, and it’s a really important time for us to be engaged.”
Just as unity is critical, Hinson also noted concrete action will be key to achieving progress this year.
“We have to be the change,” he said. “We have to be an action and not wait for action to take place. Real transformation requires an investment in being better, being more secure and more complete, and it requires absolute action. Our challenge is to be the change.”
Padilla hailed the event as an important conversation starter that could be a useful annual tool.
“It was a chance to look backward and see where we’ve come from and to look forward as a community,” she said. “I think it was really brilliant on Liberty City’s part, and I hope it becomes a tradition for them.”
A City Council committee this week unanimously approved a measure that would require some city contractors to offer domestic-partner benefits for the same-sex partners of their employees.
The measure would mandate that service contractors receiving more than $250,000 from the city must extend the same benefits they offer to heterosexual married partners of their employees to employees’ same-sex partners. The measure would apply only to companies that currently offer benefits plans.
Businesses that fail to comply could be suspended or barred from bidding on future contracts for up to three years.
“In the 21st century, the battle for equal rights needs to end with equality being the victor,” Reynolds Brown said in a statement. “We have an opportunity with this bill to take one more important step to ensure that all Philadelphians who are ‘created equal’ are treated equal. Judging one’s employment benefits due to gender of their life partner is not acceptable in this day and age. Period. We will change that standard through the Equal Benefits Bill.”
Reynolds Brown was not able to be present for the vote because of a family emergency.
Voting in favor of the measure were committee chair Councilman Bill Greenlee and Councilmen Frank DiCicco, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Green and Jack Kelly. Committee vice chair James Kenney was absent.
Greenlee, DiCicco and Kenney are cosponsors.
The Councilmembers held a public hearing before the vote, with all testimony in favor of passage. Witnesses included Equality Pennsylvania board president Adrian Shanker, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations executive director Rue Landau, Liberty City Endorsement Committee chair Sara Jacobson, Mazzoni Center executive director Nurit Shein and attorney and former City Council candidate Sherrie Cohen.
Shanker encouraged the councilmembers to consider the basic tenets addressed in the bill.
“We are talking about partner-based employee benefits such as access to medical coverage, FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] and bereavement leave,” he testified. “While good people may disagree on national social issues, I think it is pretty non-controversial to suggest that these benefits should be required for large city contractors to provide to same-sex partners of their employees. If we start with the basic idea that all people deserve equal treatment, equal benefits and in fact equal rights, then there is no rational reason to oppose the Equal Benefits Bill.”
Landau also addressed the theme of equality.
“The purpose of this law is simple: equal treatment,” she said. “This truly is an issue of equal pay for equal work.”
Jacobson urged the lawmakers to remember the promises many of them made to Liberty City membership to support the LGBT community when asking for the club’s endorsement in this year’s election.
Shein noted that about 35 percent of Mazzoni’s clients are uninsured, and that expanding benefits opportunities for LGBTs in the area makes both economic sense for the city and can foster a better and more loyal workforce.
The first law of this nature was instituted in San Francisco in 1996, and Cohen noted that 14,000 companies in the city have since complied, representing a combined workforce of about 2 million people. The enrollment rate in the domestic-partner program is very minimal — between 1 and 3 percent — Cohen said, and has had an “almost negligible” financial impact on the companies.
No testimony was offered in opposition, and the councilmembers posed no questions for the witnesses — which, noted Greenlee, demonstrates the “long way” the city has come on LGBT issues.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club was founded in fall 1994 and ever since has served as the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Democratic political organization in Philadelphia. One of our primary purposes is to harness the political power of LGBT communities to get officials elected who are good on our issues and who will support the advancement of our communities.
The Liberty City Democratic Club held its endorsement meeting last week, lending its support to a number of pro-LGBT candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In a narrow vote before a packed chamber last week, City Council approved a measure that would mandate private companies in the city to offer their employees paid sick leave, although it is still unclear whether the mayor will sign the bill into law.
Council voted 9-8 June 16 to approve the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces measure, spearheaded by Councilman Darrell Clarke (D-5th Dist.) and Councilman-at-Large Bill Greenlee.
The bill would require companies with 10 or more employees to offer one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they worked, with a maximum of seven eight-hour work days possible, or four days for employees at companies with five to nine employees.
Workers can use the time for themselves or to care for sick relatives, including same-sex domestic partners.
Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for Mayor Nutter, said the bill is “under advisement” in the mayor’s office. He said the measure does not have mayoral support but stopped short of saying whether Nutter would veto it.
“It’s pretty clear through the various iterations of this bill with its many amendments that the mayor opposes this legislation,” McDonald said. “He believes it should be handled at the state or federal level. It certainly is a laudatory goal, but given the nature of the difficulty that small businesses and business in general in this city face, this is something that should be done on a broader basis. It sets up burdens and impacts the competition between businesses in the city and those just outside the city.”
If the mayor vetoes the bill, it would need 12 council votes to be overridden. If the mayor takes no action on the bill, it would become law in the fall.
Stephanie Haynes, community coordinator at LGBT family group Philadelphia Family Pride and a member of the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces Coalition, said the effort to pass the measure was a grassroots one.
“I definitely felt a lot of momentum, especially from the LGBT community,” she said. “It seemed like a lot of people were reaching out to Councilmembers ... so I felt we had a pretty good chance of passing this.”
More than 100 groups signed on to the coalition, including numerous HIV/AIDS and LGBT groups such as Action AIDS, AIDS Fund, BEBASHI, Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, the William Way LGBT Community Center, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, Mazzoni Center and Liberty City Democratic Club.
“I’ve been a politically involved person for a long time, and I know the hard work it takes to win something contentious like this,” Haynes said. “It really came down to the wire, and I think that hearing from members of our community was part of what made the difference.”
In addition to Clarke and Greenlee, Councilmembers Jannie Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown, W. Wilson Goode Jr., Bill Green, Curtis Jones, Donna Reed Miller and Maria Quiñones Sánchez voted for the bill.
Opponents include Republicans Jack Kelly, Brian O’Neill and Frank Rizzo, and Democrats Frank DiCicco, Anna Verna, Jim Kenney, Joan Krajewski and Marian Tasco.
June 14, 2011--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.
Employees with earned sick days are more likely to stay home when they are sick, limiting the spread of the illness and protecting co-workers, customers, or anyone else they meet during the work day. During the height of the H1N1 pandemic, people were urged to stay home if they had any signs of the flu, however, those without earned sick days were less likely to stay home because they could not afford to. As a result, nearly 8 million H1N1 cases were traced back to employees going to work while sick.
City Council is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday, June 16, 2011.
Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club works to register, educate, and mobilize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters, elect openly LGBT candidates for public and party office, support LGBT-friendly candidates and promote legislative issues of importance to the LGBT community.
Liberty City Democratic Club elected two new executive board members last week.
At its May 5 meeting, the board selected Lee Carson as its new male co-chair and Stephanie Haynes as secretary.
Carson will replace Micah Mahjoubian, co-chair for the past year, who will remain as a board member.
Carson, a health researcher at Public Health Management Corporation, has served on the board for two years and said he was eager to "build upon the years of work that have already been done to make it a strong and viable organization."
Carson will work alongside female co-chair Adah Bush, who, he said, "demonstrated great leadership over the past year."
Bush noted that Carson has nearly seven years of community-organizing experience and "has built strong connections to various segments of the LGBT community, which he will use to help grow the organization."
Haynes, who also serves as community coordinator for Philadelphia Family Pride, has been an active member of Liberty City for four years.
Re-elected to the board were treasurer Eric Cheung, Sarah Jacobson, Mahjoubian and Su Ming Yeh, while Bush and Howard Moseley were not up for re-election yet.
Haynes was newly elected alongside at-large member Dwayne Bensing, a second-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he serves as president of the Lambda Law group.
Mayor Nutter was one of a slew of politicos who packed into the second floor of Woody’s April 11 for Liberty City Democratic Club’s candidate meet-and-greet and fundraiser. More than 50 people, including incumbent City Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Bill Green and at-Large candidates Andy Toy and Sherrie Cohen, who is an open lesbian, attended. All four First District Council hopefuls — Joe Grace, Jeff Hornstein, Mark Squilla and Vern Anastasio, one of whom will represent the area encompassing the Gayborhood — turned out, as did openly gay judicial candidates Chris Mallios and Bob Tuerk, running respectively for Court of Common Pleas and Traffic Court. The event was Liberty City’s last before the LGBT political group voted on its slate of endorsed candidates April 14.