The Pennsylvania Senate has rejected a Unanimous Consent Resolution recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month.
Sen. Sharif Street (D-PA), who has put forward similar resolutions in 2017-18, proposed the resolution.
“I was pleased to be joined by pioneers of the LGBTQ-plus community on [June 6] to offer a resolution honoring and commemorating Pride festivities in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth,” said Street. “Unfortunately, Republican leadership did not see fit to allow it to proceed.”
A source in Harrisburg told PGN that the rejection by Republican leadership was “particularly insulting because all these people were there. It was like they were being rejected personally.”
Street said he had hoped the resolution would be adopted this year for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. His guests for the session, billed as “honorees,” included LGBTQ pioneers and activists — several of whom expressed outrage that the Senate was unwilling to pass a simple resolution recognizing their lives and struggles.
Among the honorees were Elizabeth Coffey-Williams, a transwoman and accomplished artist who cofounded and facilitated the Chrysalis Gender Group and also has served as a board member for the Rockland AIDS Care Network; John James, founder of AIDS Treatment News and a participant in the first Annual Reminders protest in front of Independence Hall on July 4, 1965; Susan Silverman, a former member of activist group Gay Liberation Front who helped create lesbian-feminist political action group radicalesbians; and David Acosta, founder of GALAEI, a queer Latinx social-justice organization, who also was the first Latinx man to be appointed to the city’s Commission of Sexual Minorities, where he served from 1985-89 under Mayor Wilson Goode.
“In reflecting on having been involved in so many things over so many years, the most important thing that I did was I decided very early on, at the age of 17, that I was going to live my authentic life,” Acosta said. “I made a conscious decision to live out in the open, and with that comes great risk. But ultimately, having taken that step, I was ensuring as an out person I could push against the tides that oppress us.”
Acosta added that activism also has been challenging and risky.
“There was a lot of fear stepping out of that closet,” he said, “but I wanted to get involved and make an impact, not just for myself but for others who might not have the courage or privilege. I don’t feel so special about doing that.”
He pointed to the state Senate’s refusal to pass an LGBT resolution during a historically relevant month for the community — and while the administration attempts to curtail LGBT rights — as an example of why activism remains urgent.
“I wanted to be living a life that was free from shame, free from fear,” said Acosta. “I work towards social and economic justice on many fronts. I want to make it a little better so that those that come after don’t have to start from scratch.”
Silverman said she was gratified, if overwhelmed, to be recognized for a half-century of activism.
“I am especially grateful that Sen. Street and [Street policy director] Micah Mahjoubian are fighting so hard to bring legislative protections to the LGBT-plus community of Pennsylvania,” she added. “While I’ve seen many strides since Stonewall, we still can lose our jobs, lose our apartments and, for some, lose our physical safety and even our lives. The fight goes on.”
Street, for his part, remains committed to introducing the LGBT Pride resolution until the Senate unanimously adopts it.
“I’m optimistic and hopeful attitudes around the commonwealth and capital are improving, due, in no small part, to the work of our pioneers, which will not be in vain,” the senator said. “Both the LGBTQ community and allies like myself are undeterred and will continue to build upon their great legacy.”
Street was successful getting the initials “LGBT” and the word “gay” on Pennsylvania Senate documentation when recognizing PGN publisher and dmhFund president Mark Segal at Sunday’s Philly Pride.
Gov. Tom Wolf also attended Pride, where he issued a proclamation for Pride Month from the Governor’s Office that stated, in part: “Pride Month is a time to unite and denounce discrimination and violence toward LGBTQ individuals, to promote self-affirmation, dignity and equality and to mobilize communities. The commonwealth is proud to honor the history and contributions of LGBTQ communities within our state and throughout the nation.”