The global LGBT and ally community will have its eye on Philadelphia later this month as the 17th annual Equality Forum takes the stage, providing a platform for political, religious, health and business leaders to discuss issues facing all LGBT individuals.
The event is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants from North America and Europe for a week of lectures, film screenings, workshops and social gatherings.
New this year is the National Equality Rally at Independence Hall set for May 3, where activists will call on legislative leaders to support the expansion of LGBT rights.
The rally, held at the same location as the historic LGBT demonstrations in the summers of 1965-69, is meant to bolster support for such issues as marriage equality, LGBT health, the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers and the passage of trans-inclusive hate-crimes and employment nondiscrimination bills.
Frank Kameny and Lilli Vincenz, two gay activists who participated in the rallies 40 years ago, will lead supporters in a March for Equality to Independence Hall for the 3 p.m. event.
“I think that the rally is the one thing that really sets this year apart from others,” said Chip Alfred, Equality Forum communications director. “We believe this is the right place and the right time with the right administration and the right president to support equality. This could be a changing moment in the history of the GLBT civil-rights movement.”
This year’s event will also focus on the LGBT Russian community, with such events as a panel discussion with Russian LGBT and ally leaders on the challenges they face, from 8:30-9:45 p.m. April 30 at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. Openly gay former ambassador to Romania Michael Guest will moderate the panel.
One of the United States’ most visible LGBT-rights advocates, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, will be the guest of honor at the International Equality Dinner, 7-10 p.m. May 2 at the National Constitution Center. Equality Forum will present Newsom, who sparked a firestorm of controversy in 2004 when he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco, with its 14th annual International Role Model Award.
Also during the dinner, which will be chaired by Gov. Rendell, the New York Times Company will receive the seventh-annual International Business Leadership Award.
LGBT leaders who’ve been elected to office, such as Mayor David Cicilline of Providence, R.I., Mayor Tom Gerrard of Manalapan, Fla., and Harrisburg City Council Vice President Dan Miller, will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Neil Giuliano, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, from 2:30-3:45 p.m. May 2 at the Prince.
The National Politics Panel, from 7-8:15 p.m. April 30 at the Prince, will bring together Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Jon Hoadley, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats; and Richard Tafel, president of RLT Strategies, with moderator Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Gill Action Fund, for a discussion about how the Obama administration could advance LGBT rights.
Another outspoken LGBT-rights advocate, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, will discuss his experiences with guests at the 12th Annual National Religious Colloquy, 7-8:15 p.m. April 28 at the Prince.
Local LGBT and ally singers will have their own time in the spotlight during the Voices of Equality Concert, 8-10 p.m. May 1 at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 1904 Walnut St. The concert will bring together nearly 300 members of the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, each of which will perform pieces specially commissioned for the event.
The annual Sunday OUT! street festival May 3 is expected to draw about 35,000 people to Market Street in Old City, although this year the schedule was shifted back one hour, with the celebration commencing at noon and wrapping up around 7 p.m.
Throughout the week, Equality Forum will present 34 panel discussions, 10 special events and eight parties.
For more information and a complete rundown of events, visit www.equalityforum.com.