Councilman Bill Green On His Decision to Vote No on Kenney’s LGBT Equality Bill

In this instance, the Democrat is "separating the financial issues from the equality issues."

Earlier, I published a discussion I had with Councilman Jim Kenney following yesterday’s City Council vote to pass his LGBT Equality Bill. In the course of our chat, we discussed the surprising “no” vote from fellow Councilman Bill Green, a Democrat with a history of backing pro-LGBTQ legislation. Kenney called Green’s vote “unprecedented,” saying he’d “never seen such a dumb Democratic citywide vote.”

To get his side of the story, I reached out to Councilman Green, who didn’t return my call until after the aforementioned post was made live. He says his biggest gripe in the bill is the Equality Tax Credit, which he disagrees with because the annual $2 million dollars that would need to be taken out of the City budget to pay for it would benefit major companies like Comcast and Penn. “It’s not in my view a good use of [spending] while we are talking about going through AVI and raising people’s taxes,” he says. “It’s taking [money] out of the city budget that can be spent on things like the police force and cleaner streets, so the question here is what is the best use of [that money] in the city budget.”

I reminded Green that Kenney’s bill states that the tax credit will only be granted to companies that offer same-sex-partner healthcare options after the bill goes into effect, which means UPenn and Comcast, two businesses that already offer such benefits, will not qualify. But he called bull, citing the State Constitution’s Uniformity Clause, which, in simple terms, says you can’t tax people differently. So does he have a point?

No, says, Councilman Kenney, who responded via email with the following statement:

“Regardless of what Bill Green says about the Uniformity Clause, the fact remains that we didn’t introduce the bill until we had worked closely with city legal and revenue experts to make sure the City could defend the entirety of the LBGT Equality Bill if challenged. And even if employers who already offer these health benefits got a tax credit, which is not what the bill states, that’s hardly a good enough reason to vote against critical protections for the LGBT community. The bill is a landmark achievement for Philadelphia plain and simple. We were disappointed not to have unanimous support for something that was carefully crafted to also be business-friendly.”

In the course of our conversation, Green reminded me that he has a strong history of supporting Philly’s queer community, including his 2011 Fair Practices Bill, which, among other things revamped the city’s non-discrimination laws in favor of LGBTers. But on this issue, he says  “he’s separating the financial issues from the equality issues, and frankly, given my record in council, I’m surprised anybody is surprised by that.”

But surprise or not, I had to ask: If he decides to run for mayor in 2015, isn’t he afraid this move might anger a large constituency that could really bolster his chances of making it into office?

“The LGBT community feels strongly about this issue from an equality and civil rights perspective, but they’re also all tax payers. The issue that affects all Philadelphians is when you’re right on issues regarding policy and civil rights. So if the question is who’s the best person at managing our city’s resources … at least on city council level, the answer will be me.”

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