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A nearly three-year legal battle in the Boyertown case that gained national attention after a group of students sued the school district for allowing trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity concluded this morning when plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew the litigation from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will offer a gender designation of X on driver’s licenses beginning in 2020.

Erin Waters-Trasatt, Communications Director for PennDOT told PGN that the agency “plans to deploy a systematic process to make available the use of an X indicator for gender before this time next year.”

 

Amber Hikes, executive director of the City’s Office of LGBT Affairs, will leave her position July 31, drawing her two-year tenure to a close, the Mayor’s Office announced Tuesday. 

Mayor Jim Kenney accepted Hikes’ resignation earlier in the day. Kenney appointed Hikes to lead the office in March 2017. Hikes said details of her next steps will be revealed next week, and declined to share whether she’ll remain in Philadelphia. 

During the interim between Hikes’ departure and the hiring of her replacement, senior staff from the City’s Office of the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer will take point on the Office of LGBT Affairs’ daily duties. 

In a statement, Hikes said it “has been an absolute honor” to serve Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community and she is “in awe of what we’ve created, healed and instituted in the last two years.”

“None of this could have been done without the support and participation of my fellow LGBTQ siblings and, of course, a willingness to push for change from within the administration,” she added. “Together, we have moved the office from a local policy shop to a formidable force for change. I am grateful for my experience with the Kenney administration, and look forward to seeing the continued progress of our city when it comes to advancing the rights, protections and celebration of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community.”

While serving as executive director, Hikes led the charge on several initiatives aimed at strengthening inclusion and intersectionality in the LGBTQ community. 

Recently, Hikes worked with the Philadelphia Police Department to develop a trans-inclusive policy — heralded as one of the most progressive in the United States — that was announced last month. 

Shortly after taking office in 2017, Hikes introduced Philadelphia’s “More Color, More Pride” flag, which added black and brown stripes to the design to represent the LGBTQ people of color who have experienced marginalization in the community. She also launched Philadelphia’s annual LGBTQ State of the Union, pushed for gender-neutral language updates in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and started the LGBTQ Community Leadership Pipeline, which diversifies the leadership of the city’s LGBTQ nonprofits.

Kenney said in a statement that he accepted Hikes’ resignation with mixed emotions.

“Amber has been a fearless advocate and public servant, working tirelessly to support Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community from within city government for the past two years,” he added. “She has also been a critical sounding board on issues of diversity and inclusion spanning across numerous marginalized communities. We will miss having Amber’s voice, perspective and passion inside City Hall, but her impact on the city will be felt for years to come.”

On Facebook, Hikes said her resignation stems from a mixture of “personal survival” and “sustaining and building” the LGBTQ movement. 

“I did this job with every ounce of myself and those close to me know the toll this work has taken – mentally, emotionally and physically,” Hikes wrote. “While that was my conscious sacrifice, this kind of endless dedication to our work is neither healthy nor sustainable. I believe deeply that strong leadership looks like answering the call when it’s necessary and knowing when to step aside when the time has come to pass the torch. That time is now. I leave to care for my own mind, body and heart and I do so with great pride, gratitude and peace.”

In an interview with PGN, Hikes reiterated the role self-care played in her decision. 

“It’s not necessarily a cautionary tale but … we have to do a better job of taking care of ourselves in movement work so that we can show up in the most effective way in the work that we're doing,” she said. 

As the Office of LGBT Affairs goes on in Hikes’ absence, she said she hopes it continues to focus on coalition building and representing members of marginalized communities within the city’s LGBTQ population, including immigrants, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, those living with HIV, people of color and trans people. 

A graduate of the University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania, Hikes was hired to the Office of LGBT Affairs after dedicating eight years to college access work for low-income students of color. One of the greatest challenges of the executive director role was seeing how many challenges still existed after entering the realm of City Hall, like finding resources or support and navigating bureaucracy, Hikes said. 

“The biggest challenge was being able to navigate with those very limited resources and navigate with a community that was frankly kind of actively in crisis and really struggling with some serious historical trauma,” she added, noting she felt her team navigated the hardships as best as possible.

Reflecting on her time in the office, Hikes said she’s most proud of the international visibility stemming from Philadelphia’s inclusive Pride flag, the leadership pipeline initiative and the LGBTQ State of the Union — projects she feels are “really going to resonate with folks for years to come.” 

But, Hikes said, as gratified as she is with what the office accomplished under her leadership, her dream is for all City agencies and departments to have an LGBTQ liaison to offer support to LGBTQ employees, and to train every City employee on working with the community — ventures she hopes her successor will execute. 

“It was truly the greatest honor to be able to serve this community in this capacity during this incredibly challenging time for our community's history, our city's history and our country's history,” Hikes told PGN.

 

Posted 7/9/19 12:20 p.m. 

Updated 7/10/19 1:01 p.m. 



The North Philadelphia man charged with murdering transwoman and activist Tameka Michelle Washington last month signed a statement saying he shot her during an altercation surrounding an alleged gun sale, Homicide Detective John Harkins testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

LGBTQ groups are claiming victory following Google’s decision Thursday to stop offering an app by a ministry that included material considered “ex-gay” involving conversion therapy, which is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The group Truth Wins Out has been at the forefront in the fight against the practice.

“Today is a major victory for those who want to protect LGBTQ youth from charlatans,” said Wayne Besen, Philadelphia resident and founder of Truth Wins Out. “We have clearly sent the message that dangerous and discredited products designed to ‘pray away the gay’ have no home on mainstream online stores.”

Philadelphia’s primary election will be held in two months — but much of the groundwork was completed this week.

And for two of the three LGBTQ candidates running for at-Large City Council seats, it was especially fruitful: They received prime ballot spots — a factor that, while randomly drawn, is considered the most important determinant of success in a crowded race.

An LGBTQ judicial candidate, however, has had his petition challenged.

March 19 was the last day to file objections to nomination petitions, and there were dozens. One was that of LGBTQ candidate Henry Sias, who is running for judge for the Court of Common Pleas.

Sias’ nomination papers are being challenged by John Hanssens, Jr. and Brian Eddis, according to the Commonweath Court docketHanssens is the Democratic committeeperson for Ward 23, Div. 10, along with a John Hanssens III. Eddis is the Democratic leader of the entire 63rd Ward. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 27, here in Philadelphia.

Unofficially, the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, acting as the County Board of Elections, reported 93 people are running for mayor, City Council, sheriff, register of wills and city commissioner — assuming they survive any challenges.

The number of signatures needed on each petition depends on the office. In citywide races — for mayor, City Council at-Large, city commissioner, sheriff and register of wills — the number is 1,000. For Council districts, the number is 750.

The signatures must be from registered voters of the political party, living in the location the eventual winner of the election will be serving.

Candidates who have a change of heart — usually due to challengers with more signatures and campaign money — have until March 27 to withdraw their names from the ballot.

Each candidate who filed nomination petitions draws a lot to determine their ballot position for that office. The city commissioners go through the candidate list for each office by filing date until all candidates for that office have drawn. The candidate who filed his/her nomination petition draws his/her lot first. Then, when each candidate for the office has drawn, the commissioners go on to the next office.

Finally, candidates draw numbered bingo balls from a coffee can to determine the order of the important ballot positions, so they’re decided at random. The coffee can has traditionally been from Horn & Hardart, which was noted for operating the first food service automat in Philadelphia. The can now has its own Facebook and Twitter pages.

Mayor Jim Kenney is being challenged by two other Democrats — former City Controller Alan Butkovitz and current state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams. The primary winner will face Billy Ciancaglini, a South Philadelphia lawyer and the sole Republican candidate, in November.

Forty-one people are running for seven Council at-Large seats: 34 Democrats and seven Republicans, five of whom are incumbents. Blondell Reynolds Brown and Bill Greenlee will not be running.

January 2019 — Philadelphia city council sees its first trans candidate

Openly LGBTQ candidates running for seats are Adrian Rivera Reyes, a cancer biologist, who will get the top spot, and Deja Lynn Alvarez, a transgender woman, will be second. Sherrie Cohen, the lesbian daughter of late Philadelphia Councilman David Cohen, garnered the 17th position out of 34 Democrats running for at-Large seats.

December 2018 — Cohen runs for council for the third time

In the 10 Council districts, all members are running for reelection, but 27 candidates want to replace them. Two Council members — District 6’s Bobby Henon (D) and District 10’s Brian O’Neill (R) — have no primary challengers. Henon faces federal corruption charges.

Openly LGBT candidate Lauren Vidas is challenging District 2 Council member Kenyatta Johnson in the primary. Johnson served as a state representative from 2009-12, when he became a Council member. Vidas was a legislative aide for City Council and successfully sued Mayor Michael Nutter to prevent him from closing numerous library branches. Mayor Nutter then hired her to serve as an assistant finance director. District 2 covers parts of Center City, South and Southwest Philadelphia, down to the stadium area, Philadelphia International Airport and the Navy Yard.

Another openly LGBT candidate, Daniel “Duke” Orsino, will run as the Republican in District 1 in November. Incumbent Mark Squilla, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Lou Lanni in the primary.

No LGBTQ person has ever held a Philadelphia City Council seat.

There are 14 candidates running for three city commissioner seats, four others running to become sheriff, and three candidates running for register of wills.

Voters will also be selecting six judges to serve on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for 10-year terms. There are 40 candidates.

December 2018 — Out candidates run for common pleas court

The Victory Fund has endorsed the three LGBT Democratic candidates: Wade Albert, Tiffany Palmer and Sias.

The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention investigates judicial candidates’ qualifications. It has not released any ratings yet, but individual candidates are notified and Tiffany Palmer received a “Highly Recommended” merit rating. She reports she’s the first candidate to do so since the 2015 electoral cycle.

The commissioners meet every Wednesday at 11 a.m. in City Hall Room 387.

The deadline to register to vote is April 22. You can register at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx.

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