PGN reached out to all localCongressional candidates in contested races and conducted phone interviews with those who responded, as well as with lieutenant governor and City Council candidates. Candidates denoted with a * are endorsed by PGN.
Daylin Leach (D)*
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.) hails from Northeast Philadelphia and said he has been advocating for LGBT rights since “before it was cool.”
Leach was the first state lawmaker to introduce a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
“I was watching a television program one night where they were highlighting states that had marriage equality and I noticed that Pennsylvania was in the wrong color, so I planned to introduce the bill in the Senate a few days later,” he said. “It was a very new idea and not so popular and when I introduced it, it received a lot of attention.”
If elected to Congress, Leach said, he would support measures like the Respect for Marriage Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act and Employment Nondiscrimination Act, the state version of which he co-sponsors.
“The fact that you can still be fired in the state — and not have federal protections — for being who you are is unbelievable.”
Leach said in terms of LGBT advocacy, his opponents’ records do no come close to his.
“I have been supporting LGBT issues since before they were popular. None of my challengers have the kind of record I have except recently when they have stated that they support those issues.”
Brendan Boyle (D)
Philadelphia native and state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th Dist.) said he would continue to bring pro-LGBT advocacy to the federal level if elected to Congress.
Boyle, a marriage-equality supporter, was the prime sponsor of a statewide LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes bill last year.
Boyle said he was proud to cast one of his first votes after taking office in 2008 for the LGBT-inclusive statewide nondiscrimination bill when it passed out of the House State Government Committee.
“I am a co-sponsor of HB 300 at the state level,” he said. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state that doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity in its nondiscrimination laws.”
Boyle is also a co-sponsor of the LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying measure, and said he would support the Safe Schools Improvement Act at the federal level.
He said HIV/AIDS funding is crucial to continue the progress against the epidemic.
“Back then, we heard HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and obviously that is not the case[anymore] but we need to keep that funding going,” he said.
Boyle said he has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights and would continue that committment in Congress.
“I replaced a very conservative Republican who wasn’t pro-LGBT, so there was no political benefit in it for me,” he said. “I am clearly someone who can be trusted on these issues because I have led on these issues and represented these issues.”
Valerie Arkoosh (D)
Obstetric anesthesiologist and community leader Dr. Valerie Arkoosh hopes to continue her advocacy for women’s and LGBT rights if elected.
Arkoosh said she is a strong supporter of the LGBT community.
“We need full marriage equality so that couples who wish to legally wed can do so and be covered by all rights given to couples of different genders,” she said.
Arkoosh would sign on as a co-sponsor for the Respect for Marriage Act, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
If elected, she said, she would make sure LGBT people were protected in every piece of relevant legislation.
“I think it is critically important to include both sexual orientation and gender identity in legislation and that is an issue that we need to keep an eye on and look for every opportunity to put LGBT language in legislation,” she said.
Arkoosh said as a physician, she has seen the effects of HIV/AIDS and would work to restore funding for HIV/AIDS programs.
Arkoosh said her real-world experience can help win LGBT equality nationwide.
“I am the only individual who has recent experience working on the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I have served in Philadelphia-area hospitals and have seen the real importance of decisions made in Washington. I know how to work with all different people and will listen to bring people together and agree on different issues.”
Shaughnessy Naughton (D)*
Shaughnessy Naughton is looking to unseat Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick to represent the district in which she was born and raised.
Naughton currently serves as the principle for her family’s small business, Naughton Design & Publishing, and hopes to bring her background as an entrepreneur and scientist to the nation’s capitol.
Naughton supports marriage equality and said same-sex couples should have access to basic marriage rights such as employment and government benefits, equal tax treatment, hospital-visitation rights and the right to serve as sponsors in the immigration process.
Naughton said she would support the Respect for Marriage Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act as well as the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. She said she has written to her senator expressing support for ENDA.
Naughton said she has advocated for the investment in science and technology funding and would continue to press for funding for HIV/AIDS research and an increase in Ryan White funding.
“We have come so far in the fight against HIV/AIDS largely because the U.S. federal government funded cutting-edge research and developed a comprehensive coordinated HIV/AIDS plan,” she said. “We will only have a cure for HIV and an AIDS-free generation if we continue to invest heavily in scientific research.”
Naughton said she is eager to take her personal commitment to LGBT equality to the national stage.
“As someone who has stood by my gay friends, co-workers, and sisters-in-law, it is
incredible to me how far we have come,” she said. “We still have a long way to go, and I want to build on this momentum to push for full civil equality including marriage equality and protection from discrimination in the workplace.”