Equality Forum celebrates its 20th anniversary this year when events officially kick off May 3 – 6 in Philadelphia. Looking back on the last 20 years, the LGBT symposium has covered a wide array of topics. This year, the spotlight is on Israel.
“Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking regional LGBT conference into the premier and largest annual national and international LGBT summit,” says Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the organization. He says Israel was selected as a featured nation thanks to its LGBT-friendly culture in the not-so-LGBT-friendly Middle East.
A private reception for press, officials and LGBT leaders kicks off four full days of events at the Gershman Y on May 2, followed by panels, parties and important discussions about LGBT life around the world.
There are 25 panels in total, with featured guests from Israel and around the country, including a few highlights:
Featured Nation: Israel panel is moderated by Israel native Nurit Shein, executive director of the Mazzoni LGBT Health Center in Philadelphia, with Israeli panelists, including openly gay Tel Aviv City Council Member Yaniv Weizman; Shai Doitsh, chairperson of the Israeli National LGBT Task Force; Anat Nir, founder of Over the Rainbow LGBT marketing company; and Irit Rosenblum, founder of the New Family Organization, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 3, 8:30 p.m.).
National Racial Panel explores the challenges facing LGBT people of color with Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the Black Justice Coalition; Gregory DeShields, managing director of the business development at Temple University; Kevin Huang, executive director of ASIAC; and Emmanual Xavier, a poet, author and youth activist, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 3, 8:30 p.m.).
National Transgender Panel explores the most prominent civil rights issues in the transgender community with a discussion led by Joe Ippolito, a psychologist and founder of Gender Reel, and panelists including Kye Allums, the first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA basketball; Jeanine Ruhsam, president of TransCentral PA; and Melissa Sklarz, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 3, 7 p.m.).
National Religious Colloquy discusses activism on behalf of LGBT rights in the Roman Catholic Church with Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, associate professor at Temple University; Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry; Dr. Elizabeth Linehan, associate professor of St. Joseph’s University; Rev. Eileen McCafferty DiFranco, a pastor at St. Mary Magdelene; and Michael Rocks from Catholic Organizations for Renewal, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 3, 7 p.m.).
National Politics Panel is moderated by Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, with panelists Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans; Patrick Guerriero, founding partner of Civitas Public Affairs Group; Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation; and Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), at the National Constitution Center (May 4, 5:30 p.m.).
National Legal Panel discusses leading issues in LGBT civil rights with Jennifer Pizer, legal director of the Williams Institute; William Eskridge, professor of jurisprudence at Yale Law School; Katherine Frank, professor of law at Columbia University; Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal; and Janson Wu, staff attorney with the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, at National Constitution Center (May 4, 4 p.m.).
National Military Panel discusses the challenges LGBT military personnel face after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with Sewell Chan, deputy editor at The New York Times; Jonathan Mills, executive editor of OutServe; Sgt. First Class Ron Nalley, a noncommissioned officer of the Army Chemical Corps.; Paula Neira, co-chair of SLDN Military Advisory Council; and Lt. Josh Seefried, co-director of OutServe, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 5, 1 p.m.).
National Same-Sex Marriage Panel looks at the past, present and future of marriage equality with Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation; Nicole Berner-Kadish, a same-sex family activist; Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for Family Equality Council; Jonathan Lang, director of governmental projects and community development at Empire State Pride Agenda; Jennifer Pizer, legal director of the Williams Institute; and Irit Rosenblum, founder of New Family Organization, at the Doubletree Hotel (May 5, 2:30 p.m.).
There are also seven other special events during the LGBT forum, including these favorites:
The 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit with Israeli photographer David Adika (May 1 -May 6) at the Gershman Y. Adika’s photography has been featured in museums and galleries around the world.
The 13th Annual James Wheeler Youth Panel with a focus on youth and families with Katherine Miller, a Point Foundation Scholar at Yale University; Chris Armstrong, a student activist at the University of Michigan; and Zach Wahls, an author and same-sex activist who got the attention of the nation for his passionate speech about his two moms last year, at the Doubletree (May 5, 2:30 p.m.).
The 20th-Century Way, a play by Tom Jacobson, is set in Los Angeles in 1914 when two actors are hired by the police to entrap homosexuals in public restrooms. The award-winning thriller features Philly actors Peter Andrew Danzig and Thomas Raniszewski at Plays and Players (May 5, 7:30 p.m.).
International Equality Dinner honors Houston Mayor Annise Parker with the 17th annual International Role Model Award. The 10th annual International Business Leadership Award will also be handed out. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is the Keynote Speaker and MSNBC Anchor Thomas Roberts is the Master of Ceremonies for the evening at the National Museum of American Jewish History (May 5).
SundayOUT! at The Piazza features more than 150 vendors, artisans, galleries, bars, boutiques, cafés and restaurants in the open-air plaza in NoLibs. Look for entertainment by Neon Hitch, Fuego Dance Company, Osher Sabag – an Israeli drag performer – and Israeli pop star Shorty, as well as a few popular DJs from Tel Aviv (May 6).
And don’t forget the six parties this week:
NBCUniversal Welcome Party at Vedge (May 3)
Drag Show & Party at Tabu (May 4)
Stimulus Party (May 4)
Girl Fever at Sisters (May 5)
Men’s Party at Voyeur (May 5)
SundayOUT! Tea Dance at Gunners Run (May 6)