Sharron Cooks ousted as LGBT commission chair

Sharron Cooks ousted as LGBT commission chair

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Six weeks after she was elected, the chair of the newly created Commission on LGBT Affairs was voted out this week.

The commission voted 13-3 Tuesday night, with three commissioners abstaining, to remove Sharron Cooks from the helm of the board, which advises the Office of LGBT Affairs and the city on LGBT issues. According to a report by G Philly, she later stepped down from the commission.

It is unclear when a new commission chair will be named.

Cooks did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.

The G Philly story cited an anonymous commissioner as saying the ousting stemmed from a social-media post in which Cooks “indirectly called [commissioner Amanda Dougherty] out for being a white bisexual woman taking up space in the community affairs committee.”

Ajeenah Amir, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, told PGN that the administration fielded complaints from several commissioners.

“Over the past several weeks, a number of commissioners began raising concerns about comments being made by the chair, Sharron Cooks, at meetings and on her social-media channels that were creating an unwelcoming environment,” Amir said, adding that some of the comments “attacked fellow commissioners based on their race, sexual orientation and education level.”

In a statement sent to G Philly, Cooks said she was the “target of several racist attacks by community members,” as well as death threats. She contended the Office of LGBT Affairs “consistently dismissed” complaints about a “lack of bylaws and guidelines for the commission, serious concerns regarding the leaking of confidential information by commission members,” commissioner attendance and debate over the recent allegations regarding Mazzoni Center.

“The administration made clear that given its commitment to diversity and inclusion, commission members making offensive comments about other members’ race, gender identity or sexual orientation was unacceptable and therefore complaints of that activity would need to be taken seriously,” Amir continued, saying Cooks initiated an emergency meeting to “discuss commission concerns and these complaints,” which took place Tuesday evening. “The commission, supported by the Office of LGBT Affairs, worked swiftly to institute a clear process for considering these complaints, which led to the commission’s vote last night.”

In a statement to PGN, Hikes said mutual respect among the commissioners is integral to its success.

“Given the profoundly complicated challenges our communities face, it is important that the members of our commission work together in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment,” she said. “We cannot do this work when we alienate, insult and publicly deride our fellow community members. While I respect that individuals at times disagree, I will never stand for anyone in this community consistently and viciously lashing out at others with prejudiced, biphobic and educationally elitist attacks. Our work is too important and the stakes are too high.” 

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