NATIONAL NEWS: Westboro Protesters Blocked in Orlando

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church picketed Penn Campus in 2009.

Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church picketed Penn Campus in 2009.

“Guardian angels” from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre formed a human shield to block mourners from seeing Westboro Baptist Church protesters at funerals for victims.

On Saturday, more than 200 people formed a human chain around St. James Catholic Cathedral in Orlando as a peaceful response to anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church protesters outside. The controversial hate group was there to picket the funerals of victims who lost their lives in the June 12th mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub. Priests, bikers, and members from the LGBTQ community carried positive signs that counter-protested the hate speech from Westboro. Orlando Shakespeare Company members wore angel wings and joined many others in signing “Amazing Grace” as they carried signs that said “God is love” and “Orlando strong.” A similar counter-protest tactic was used against Westboro during the 1999 funeral for gay hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Dante Austin

Dante Austin

Dante Austin

Dante Austin, 24, has been an openly gay deputy sheriff officer with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office for nearly three years. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on being a part of the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL) and on his new role as LGBT liaison for the Sheriff’s Office.

What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you when they first see you in your uniform?
When I was 17 years old, I enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and was honorably discharged this past February. Having served in the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I knew I was not going to allow myself to be closeted in my law-enforcement career. I’ve been open about my sexuality from my very first interview with the Sheriff’s Office, and I made sure to stay “out” throughout my career. With law enforcement and the military being so masculine-driven, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to “come out” for most officers. I know what it’s like to be closeted, and have that fear of “coming out.” I also know what it’s like to take that step out the closet and then be ostracized for it. Although I had a rough time with the military, I’ve felt very comfortable here at the Sheriff’s Office. Being confident in my authentic self is so important, and I hope to see other officers do the same. Read more »

Philly Schools Adopt Policy Protecting Transgender Students’ Rights

Philadelphia school district Superintendent William Hite speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter discussed efforts by My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia, part of a national initiative created by President Barack Obama to address inequality targeting men and boys of color. Nutter told reporters Wednesday he hopes to build on the momentum of the program and laid plans for it to continue beyond his administration, ending in January. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission adopted a policy Thursday night that immediately broadened the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students in the city’s schools. The new guidelines allow students to use their bathroom of choice, be referred to by their names and pronouns of choice, and participate in gender-segregated groups that correspond with their gender identity. Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: State Senator Proposes Three LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Bills

istockphoto.com,  catnap72

istockphoto.com, catnap72

Three bills introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate propose to update the Human Relations Act to include LGBTQ protections.

Late last week, Republican State Senator Pat Browne proposed three new bills geared toward updating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which currently excludes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The law currently allows for discrimination against LGBTQ Pennsylvanians in the areas of employment, housing and business, and government services, which have been the basis of a heated national discussion on equal rights in recent years. Read more »

OPINION: Intersectionality and the Orlando Shootings

Candlelight vigil at City Hall for Orlando Shooting victims. Photo by Ernest Owens.

Candlelight vigil at City Hall for the Orlando shooting victims. Photo by Ernest Owens.

Since the weekend, I have not been able to think much about anything besides but the tragic mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The club had a reputation of having a huge LGBTQ Latinx crowd that lived in their truth and danced to diverse music. Diverse gay bars are a sacred space in which LGBTQ people of color can be themselves in a world where being a double minority in America carries unfair consequences. Read more »

Orlando Nightclub Shooting Was a Hate Crime

A message of the screen during a prayer vigil at the Joy Metropolitan Community Church after a fatal shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

A message of the screen during a prayer vigil at the Joy Metropolitan Community Church after a fatal shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

“We find community and sanctuary on the dance floor. As Latino gay men, we teach ourselves to break tradition so that we can take the hand of another man and dance. We do this to keep traditional. This alone continues to provide us space, even if the spaces are borrowed, for us to be and feel safe. This massacre was another reminder that we can be robbed of these spaces, robbed of our humanity and our lives.”

— Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of The Gran Varones, a storytelling project that shines a light on the stories of Latino & Afro-Latino Gay, Queer and Trans men.

I’m writing this column Sunday night. I’ve spent all day online, tracking what is happening in Orlando, Fla., where in the early hours of the day, a gunman shot and killed at least 53 people at a popular gay dance club where folks had gathered for a night of reggaeton, bachata and salsa.

You don’t need me to tell you the details of the Orlando nightclub shooting — every news story out there has them — and after a while they serve more as distraction than revelation. That last is what we crave, not only an answer to an unfathomable “why” but also what it means for us (and about us) as a nation. Read more »

Philly and the Nation React in Horror to Orlando Shootings

A vigil in Atlanta for the victims of a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016.

A vigil in Atlanta for the victims of a fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub Sunday, June 12, 2016.

A mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando left at least 50 people dead and 53 wounded this weekend in what was the worst of its kind in U.S. history.

Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, opened fire in Pulse, a popular LGBT nightclub, around 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Police entered the nightclub and killed Mateen around 5 a.m., according to the Orlando Sentinel.

People are mourning the tragedy across the city and nationwide. President Barack Obamaspoke Sunday, offering his condolences to the LGBT community and calling the event an act of terror and hate. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Dame Luz of Cutn Paste

Dame Luz is the mastermind behind the all-inclusive LGBTQ Cutn Paste events.

Una Bruja is the mastermind behind the all-inclusive LGBTQ Cutn Paste events.

Dame Luz is one of the few consistent female event producers in the male-dominated Gayborhood. One of her wildly successful events, Cutn Paste, strives to include all LGBTQ walks of life through music and dance. We got to chat with the mastermind on what keeps her going on one of the community’s biggest weekends, Philly Gay Pride.  Read more »

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