PA Legislative Session Ends With No LGBT Hate Crimes Law

The Pennsylvania legislative session has come to a close for the season and, much to the chagrin of PA LGBT advocates, there has been no action taken to include LGBT people in state hate crime laws. Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin, for instance, is none too pleased with the lack of progress. The organization sent out this message from him earlier today:

Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin.

Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin.

In spite of overwhelming support in both chambers of the legislature for nondiscrimination protections and a massive outcry for including LGBT people in hate crimes protections followed by a strongly bipartisan committee vote, the state legislature took absolutely NO action to protect LGBT people from discrimination over the past two years.

Legislators will now go home to focus on elections. While they are campaigning, we are sure that they will realize that voters care deeply about LGBT equality. Attitudes toward LGBT equality have only been growing stronger in recent years. Polls repeatedly show that a clear majority of voters support marriage equality and nondiscrimination. And when the legislature returns in January we expect them to live up to promises made to constituents and LGBT voters and take action for LGBT equality.

The next step, Martin says, is to elect the right leaders. Equality Pennsylvania has put together a voting guide for the entire state, which can be found here. We have a few weeks till election day, people. Let’s make this right.

SandBlast Returning to Atlantic City in 2015

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This summer, the annual homo-tastic weekend beach party Sand Blast made some waves when it announced that it would move from Asbury Park, where it was held for the last 12 years, to the shores of Atlantic City. Organizers are reporting that 1,100 men and women showed up for the inaugural romp in AC, and dropped around $850,000 at local businesses. It’s no wonder, then, that Atlantic City is happy to welcome them back in 2015.

Next year’s event will take place July 17th to 20th, promising four days and nights of beach activities, dancing, pool parties, and many of its recurring events, like the Lost At Sea Kickoff Party, the main Sand Blast Beach Party on Saturday and the Drag Race & Hand Bag Toss, which was hosted by our very own Brittany Lynn in 2014

This is the next thing in a string of events showing that Atlantic City is clamoring for LGBT visitors. Earlier this summer, for instance, out Mayor Don Guardian announced the re-dedication of a gay beach at Park Place and the Boardwalk.

We were there for 2014 Sand Blast and had, well, a blast. Check out our photos from the party below for inspiration. Tickets for 2015 will be available soon, and can be purchased here.



Funeral Date Set for Gloria Casarez, Campaign Asks Businesses to Bring Out Rainbow Flags For the Occassion

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 9.46.53 AMGloria Casarez, the first director of the  Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs who passed away Sunday night at the age of 42, will be laid to rest following a public funeral service on Friday, October 24th, at 10:30 a.m. It will take place at the Arch Street United Methodist Church at 55 North Broad Street.

The community has been celebrating Gloria’s legacy all week long—from the flag-lowering at City Hall on Monday to an outpouring of personal stories shared on Facebook. In another attempt to honor the civil rights leader friends, like Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus’s Tami Sortman, have started a campaign to all but drape the city in rainbows during her funeral. The “Show Your True Colors for Gloria” initiative calls on folks in the community and businesses to “display rainbow flags in windows of stores, bars, restaurants, offices, shops and homes,” says Sortman. “We want Philly to look like the rainbow for Gloria’s funeral.”

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Council Committee Approves Hate Crimes Bill

A City Council committee on Tuesday afternoon gave preliminary approval to a bill that creates municipal hate crimes protection for people victimized because of their sexual orientation.

The bill is intended to extend protections not available under the state’s hate crimes law, which doesn’t cover sexual orientation. It was sponsored by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilman James Kenney following the September attack on a gay couple in Center City. Tuesday’s hearing was held by the council’s Committee on Public Safety.

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Gloria Casarez Passes Away at 42

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It’s a terribly sad day in gay Philadelphia. The incomparable Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has passed away at the age of 42.

She had been battling cancer, but Gloria was a fighter till the end. One of her last public appearances was at the rainbow flag raising at City Hall on October 2nd to mark LGBT History Month in Philadelphia. Despite her illness, she stood up and rallied the crowd as the flag made its way to full mast.

The mayor’s office just released the following statement, which highlights some of her biggest accomplishments—which include everything from being executive director of GALAEI and working to put into place the groundbreaking LGBT Equality Bill that helped Philadelphia earn a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.

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Weekend Roundup: Take a Gay Ghost Tour, Halloween Drag at Voyeur, Circus of the Stars and More

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  • Eric Jaffe hosts a Gayborhood cabaret on Friday night.

    Eric Jaffe hosts a Gayborhood cabaret on Friday night.

    Qventures is taking guests on a ghost tour through Old City. The guided walk promises a 90-minute candle-lit stroll through graveyards, haunted houses and dark alleys that ends at City Tavern for some drinks. First person to have a ghost pinch them in the butt wins!

  • World Ukelele Champion—and amazing froyo slinger at Igloo Frozen Yogurt—Eric Jaffe is hosting the Gayborhood’s only all-live-singing cabaret at Tavern On Camac. His guests this evening include vocalist and America’s Next Top Model‘s Cory Wade, Drag Wars 4 winner Pissi Myles and Songbird Cycle 1 winner Jo Stones. Not too shabby huh?
  • Tabu is hosting talent competition Circus of the Stars. Judges, like the high-larious Brittany Lynn, will award $100 to the evenings best performer, a cast of characters that includes magicians, comedians, singers, and maybe a meep or two.
  • If you’re wanting to get your dance on later, head to Voyeur to hear electro-pop princess Anna Lunoe. Get there early for an opening set by Factory Girls DJs Katie K Rex, Suga Shay, and Yolo Ono. Listen before you go: “Breathe.”

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Philanthropy Friday: Valley Youth House

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Every Friday Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) Executive Director Samantha Giusti introduces you to a local LGBT non-profit in Philadelphia. This week, Valerie Johnson on Warminster’s Valley Youth House, an organization that works to improve the lives of local homeless youth and their families.

Valerie TK and Wired 96.5's  Buster TK at Valley Youth House's annual Casino Night.

Valerie Johnson (L) and Buster from Wired 96.5 at Valley Youth House’s annual Casino Night.

Who are you? Valerie Johnson, development officer at Valley Youth House.

Valley Youth House was founded in … 1973.

One-sentence mission statement: The mission of Valley Youth House is to provide prevention and intervention services, counseling, life skills and behavioral health services to abused, neglected, and homeless youth and their families.

Our biggest shining moment, to date was the inception of our Pride housing program in 2009. We are the only organization in Philadelphia to provide rapid rehousing to homeless LGBTQ youth, which includes rental assistance and supportive services to prepare the youth for independence. Given that 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT compared to just 3 to 5 percent of the general population, these youth are experiencing homelessness at a disproportionate rate and we’re proud to be able to support them.

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13 #GayPhilly Instagrams You Should See This Week: Who Went Purple for #SpiritDay

Yesterday, GLAAD hosted a nationwide campaign called #SpiritDay, where it asked people to “go purple” as way to stand up against bullying and to show support for LGBT youth. Millions took part, including a nice spattering of folks right here in Philly. Locally, we had everyone from politicians to community leaders to entire kickball teams donning purple for the cause. I round up some of the ones who crossed my radar below:



Throwback Thursday: Early Transgender Activist and Co-Founder of William Way Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Every week I take a trip down memory lane in William Way Community Center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, a veritable treasure trove of relics from gay Philadelphia’s past. This week, archivist—and author of The Gayborhood Guru—Bob Skiba shares photos of Tommi Avicolli Mecca taken in the 1970s and 1980s. Skiba tells me that “Tommi was an early activist here, one of the founders of the Gay Community Center (which later became William Way) and the Archives, and a trans activist.”



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