Chaput Says Indiana Law Not Discrimination

Archbishop Charles Chaput. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Archbishop Charles Chaput. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has joined a high-profile effort to defend a new Indiana “religious freedom” law that many observers say allows business owners to discriminate against gays, signing a statement decrying “acrimony and lies” surrounding the issue.

The statement, “Now Is the Time to Talk About Religious Liberty,” was composed along with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. They were joined by Robert P. George, a Princeton law professor who has headed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Read more »

LGBT Protections Included in Proposed Amendment to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act [UPDATED]

Update [4/3/2015, 9:58 am]: From The Indy Star: “Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law a measure aimed at removing fears that the state’s new “religious freedom” law would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.” More here.

Original: Good news: Lawmakers have proposed a fix to Indiana’s much-talked-about Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). As you’ve likely read, the law had many worried that it would give businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT customers by allowing them to cite religion as a defense in court if they were sued by a private party. That all may change, though. New wording in the law “goes further than many observers thought it would, specifically including protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” says Huffington Post.

The language states that RFRA “does not authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member of the general public on the basis of … sexual orientation or gender identity.” It also says that a provider can not use religion as a defense in court if they are sued by a private party for denying services based on their sexual orientation or identity. Read the complete proposed change below:

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Governor Wolf Urged to Do More in Response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act [Updated]

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

UPDATE: A representative from Wolf’s office, responded to the original article with this statement: “What happened in Indiana is wrong, and Governor Wolf knows we need to advance equality right here in Pennsylvania. Indiana’s actions should serve as a call for Pennsylvania to pass non-discrimination legislation right now. All people—regardless of sexual orientation—should be treated equally under Pennsylvania law. This fundamental right is essential, and it is the very principle on which our Commonwealth was founded by William Penn, who envisioned a Pennsylvania that is open, diverse, and inclusive for all people. Now is the time for real progress.”

ORIGINAL: Members of Pennsylvania’s LGBT Equality Caucus in Harrisburg hand-delivered a letter to Governor Tom Wolf this afternoon in response to the anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana.

The letter, signed by Senators Daylin Leach, Vincent Hughes and Larry Farnese and Representative Dan Frankel, urges Wolf to “to stand with the people of Indiana and the nation in making it clear that this sort of law is unacceptable.”

Until an online town hall event yesterday, Wolf hadn’t spoken publicly about RFRA. At that event he said that he has “continued to support equal protection for people in the LGBT community in Pennsylvania,” and called equal protection “absolutely essential.”

Words are one thing, but the LGBT Equality Caucus is asking for action. In the closing paragraphs of their letter, they write “While many of our municipalities have passed their own anti-discrimination ordinances, many of our citizens still have no legal protection against the sort of bigotry that results in people being denied service by private companies. We urge you to redouble your efforts to work with the legislature to pass an [LGBT anti-discrimination] bill that you have already said you will sign.”

Read the full letter below.

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LGBT Pennsylvanians Not Protected from Indiana-Style Discrimination

Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gathered on the lawn of the Indiana State House to rally against that legislation Saturday, March 28, 2015.  Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill Thursday prohibiting state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gathered on the lawn of the Indiana State House to rally against that legislation Saturday, March 28, 2015. Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill Thursday prohibiting state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Here’s the good news for Pennsylvania’s LGBT citizens: Yes, the state has a “religious freedom” law somewhat similar to the one just passed in Indiana — but that law doesn’t apply to for-profit businesses.

The bad news? The state doesn’t have any laws protecting gay residents from discrimination. That means Indiana-style results are possible here without an Indiana-style law. Read more »

Council Candidate Sherrie Cohen Calls for Boycott of City-Sponsored Travel to Indiana

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen's Facebook

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen’s Facebook

The gay rights movement backtracked several years last week when, in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which effectively legalized discrimination against LGBT people. The action spurred several advocates to take a stand, including San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, who signed an executive order that stated: “Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety.”

Today Philadelphia City Council At-Large candidate Sherrie Cohen is following his lead, by asking Mayor Nutter to sign an executive order boycotting city-sponsored travel to Indiana. Her wishes were made clear in an email sent out this afternoon. You can read it below:

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Democratic Party to Endorse Openly Gay Council Candidate for the First Time Ever

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen's Facebook

Sherrie Cohen | Photo via Cohen’s Facebook

It looks like history will soon be made in the upcoming election for City Council. Our sister blog Citified writes that Philly’s Democratic party is expected to endorse City Council At-Large candidate Sherrie Cohen. This would be the first time in Philadelphia’s history that an openly LGBT council candidate will win the Democratic party’s endorsement. More from Citified.

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City Council Bill Seeks to Make Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs a Permanent Thing

blondell reynods brown

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

This afternoon Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill in City Council that would make permanent the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. The move is co-sponsored by all Councilmembers.

“Philadelphia has an international reputation as a City that both celebrates diversity and has no tolerance for intolerance.  This bill offers the LGBT community a permanent seat and voice at the table,” Reynolds Brown said in a press release sent out this afternoon. “To a community who too often faces discrimination, it is imperative for them to have a direct line to the Mayor and City Council. Making this office permanent sends a continued message that, while we have more work to do, we are absolutely up to the challenge.”

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All the Ways Philadelphia is Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Nation’s First LGBT Protests

lgbt reminder day protests

Photo by Samantha Giusti

 

We’ve already reported on several ways the City of Philadelphia will mark the 50th anniversary of the nation’s first LGBT protests—which took place in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965 and is regarded as the birth of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. One of those is a major exhibit at the National Constitution Center curated by William Way. But that only scratches the surface. Museums and organizations across the 215 will be hosting events and exhibits to commemorate the occasion, and Visit Philadelphia has been kind enough to lay out the full itinerary.

The events celebrate all things LGBT in Philadelphia—from art exhibits at the African American Museum and National Museum of American Jewish History to a concert hosted by Live Nation and a block party hosted by Philly Pride Presents. Check out all the ways you can get your celebration on below:

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Mayor Nutter Recognizes Gloria Casarez in Final Budget Address

This morning, Mayor Nutter delivered his annual budget address—the last one during his tenure as Mayor of Philadelphia.

Before he got started, he took a moment to recognize Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of LGBT affairs, who lost her life last fall after a long battle with cancer, and a handful of other female government employees who lost their lives in the last year.

Mayor Nutter at the 2014 LGBT History Celebration at City Hall, Casarez looks on. | Photo by Bryan Buttler

Mayor Nutter at the 2014 LGBT History Celebration at City Hall, Casarez looks on. | Photo by Bryan Buttler

Before we begin, I’d like to have a moment of silence to recognize three tremendous public servants who we lost over the last year: Gloria Casarez, the first Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, Joan Markman, our first Chief Integrity Officer, and Lieutenant Joyce Craig, the first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.

These three extraordinary women were exemplary public servants, consummate professionals and dedicated leaders. Let their lives and their service act as a continual reminder to all of us to do our own jobs better and let us keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

For more specifics on the Mayor’s budget address, head to our News blog.

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