For Philly’s LGBT Community, November Ballot Measure Has Significant Impact

Via Shutterstock.

Via Shutterstock.

A ballot measure this upcoming Election Day is critical for Philadelphia’s LGBT community and their allies: City residents will head to the polls to vote on an amendment to The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter which would make permanent the Office of LGBT Affairs.

The measure (Bill No. 150216 and Resolution Number 150225) was introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who testified in April of this year at a City Council Law and Government hearing that it was personal experience that lead her to introduce the measure.

“This really stems from my own personal experience of having spent a lot of time earlier in my career in the arts, and specifically dance, where I made a lot of good friends with members of the LGBT community and was sickened by the disrespect and just lack of being treated like a human being when we would hang out together after rehearsals,” Brown said. “This action seeks to try to level the playing field a little more where government can have an active role in trying to level the playing field.”

Nellie Fitzpatrick, who was appointed as the Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs in January of this year, after the untimely death of Gloria Casarez, emphasized that the office provides critical information and services to citizens through outreach and public education. During her testimony, Fitzpatrick outlined the various achievements of her administration, including extensive outreach with the Philadelphia Police Department to ensure safety and acceptability for LGBT individuals, adult literacy, lecturing, and working with schools and business to ensure members of the LGBT community are treated fairly and appropriately.

However, there’s still much more to be done, including extensive work with the transgender community and getting a firmer grasp on the City’s LGBT youth homelessness population.

“LGBT youth make up 40% of our homeless youth population and have been subjected to homelessness for coming out,” Fitzpatrick said. “Each year in Philadelphia, we have over 2,500 kids age out of DHS in search of homes, jobs, acceptance, and opportunity. We must seek to protect, and ensure opportunities for our LGBT youth. We must work to create and implement policy in our schools and systems that give all our children, including our LGBT children, opportunities to succeed.”

Few Philadelphia mayors have been as supportive to the LGBT community as Michael Nutter. However, Nutter’s administration is coming to an end, and there’s no clear guarantee that future mayors will be as friendly. That’s a key reason why the measure to make the Office of LGBT Affairs permanent is so critical.

“Making the Office of LGBT Affair permanent in the Home Rule Charter is essential, as there is no guarantee that future leaders will be as protective of the rights of the LGBT community as City Council and this Administration have been,” said Rue Landau, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations during the April hearing. “Permanency will provide uniformity and clarity to the ongoing work of this important office so that Philadelphia can continue to be a leader in LGBT rights.”

Fitzpatrick agreed that, although there has been great progress in Philadelphia, the position still has much to to.

“As a former Assistant District Attorney, current member of the Philadelphia Prisons Board of Trustees, and a Civilian Trainer for the Department of Justice Transgender Initiative, I am keenly aware of the enormous amount of work there is still left to do to achieve equality for the LGBT community here in Philadelphia,” she said. “This office strives to create the open dialogue and access between the community and the government that serves them through continued education, collaboration, and presence.”