News Briefing: Dec. 4-10, 2015

News Briefing: Dec. 4-10, 2015

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Officer terminated from job

Haddon Township Police Officer Jason DeMent has been officially terminated from the township’s police force, effective Oct. 28.

DeMent contends his termination is in retaliation for rejecting the sexual advances of Haddon Township Police Chief Mark Cavallo. He’s filed a federal lawsuit against Cavallo and the township, which remains pending.

On Nov. 25, DeMent received a letter from the township, explaining that his termination was effective Oct. 28, and that his health benefits would expire Nov. 30.

DeMent had previously requested a one-year extension of his health-care coverage, while he pursued treatment for a vision impairment. He also sought to continue working as a township police officer during that time, but the township refused his request.

“We were disappointed to learn that Haddon Township denied Mr. DeMent’s request for continued health coverage and immediately terminated Mr. DeMent,” said Zachary R. Wall, an attorney for DeMent. “We believe that the shameful decision was a further act of retaliation for Mr. DeMent’s blowing the whistle on the rampant sexual harassment within the department.”

Eric J. Riso, a solicitor for the township, had no comment for this update.

Trans-inclusion forum scheduled

A public forum that aims to increase transgender and non-binary inclusion within the local Jewish communities will be held this month.

The event, entitled “Synagogues Supporting Trans Communities,” is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Dec. 13 at Or Hadash Synagogue, 190 Camp Hill Road in Fort Washington.

“Join us for a conversation about how we can create safe and inclusive Jewish spaces for transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals and communities,” said Phoenix Schneider, director of the LGBTQ Initiative at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia.

Schneider added: “We’re really encouraging rabbis, cantors and all Jewish leaders to attend. It’s critical for them to be part of this conversation, so we can look at how we can collectively support trans and non-binary Jews in the Greater Philadelphia area.”

The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. If you plan to attend, RSVP Schneider at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kane appoints special prosecutor

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane this week appointed Douglas F. Gansler to lead a team of special prosecutors tasked with investigating thousands of pornographic emails exchanged by judges and law-enforcement officials.

The team “will review racist, misogynistic, homophobic and religiously offensive emails. The team will be tasked with identifying any violations of the criminal, civil or ethics laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” according to Kane. 

Kane announced Gansler’s appointment at the National Convention Center in Center City on Dec. 1.

Three local prosecutors — Frank G. Fina, Patrick J. Blessington and E. Marc Costanzo — participated in the email exchange.

The local chapter of the National Organization for Women, along with numerous public officials, are urging District Attorney Seth Williams to dismiss the prosecutors. 

But Williams refuses to do so, noting the prosecutors have received sensitivity training.

Gansler has served as attorney general of Maryland. He’s currently an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C.

Advocacy groups to participate in trans hearing

A federal judge last month granted permission for six LGBT-advocacy groups to participate in oral arguments in the Kate Blatt antibias case. 

The groups are Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Mazzoni Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force and Transgender Law Center.

On Nov. 25, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr. also said the advocacy groups had until Dec. 1 to file a legal brief in support of Blatt. 

Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Edward N. Cahn Federal Courthouse in Allentown.

Blatt, a Pottsville trans woman, is suing Cabela’s Retail Inc. for job discrimination. She claims Cabela’s discriminated against her on the basis of her disability — gender dysphoria — by denying her access to a female restroom and a female name tag.

Blatt also challenges the Americans with Disabilities Act’s exclusion of gender-identity disorder as a protected disability. She claims the GID exclusion violates her constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Cabela’s is located in Hamburg and specializes in outdoor sports items. Blatt worked there as a seasonal stocker between September 2006 and March 2007.

Cabela’s denies any wrongdoing in the matter.

The ADA protects those with disabilities from discrimination in private employment, public accommodations and governmental services.

— Timothy Cwiek

William Way to host free film screening

The William Way LGBT Community Center, with the support of John Alchin and Hal Marryatt, will host a free screening of “The Year We Thought About Love,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St.

The documentary film follows Boston LGBTQ troupe True Colors: OUT Youth Theater as its members create a new play about love. Prior to the screening, at 6:30 p.m., William Way archivist Bob Skiba will lead a tour of the “Speaking OUT” LGBT-history exhibit at NCC.

The tour and screening are free, but RSVPs are requested at http://bit.ly/WWCCAboutLove.

— Jen Colletta

Court date again postponed for murder defendant

The preliminary hearing for a man charged with murder and related offenses in the October killing of a transgender woman in Logan was continued for the second time.

Pedro Redding, 24, was scheduled for a hearing Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, to determine if his case would move to trial. The new date for his preliminary hearing is Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. in Room 306 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St.

Redding, of the 4500 block of North 13th Street, was denied bail and is being held at the Philadelphia Detention Center. He faces charges of murder, conspiracy and weapons offences.

Redding was arrested in connection with the Oct. 6 fatal shooting of Kiesha Jenkins at 13th and Wingohocking streets. Jenkins, 22, was assaulted by several men around 2:30 a.m. and shot twice in the back.

Police said the motive was robbery and that Jenkins was not targeted for being transgender.

Police do not believe Redding was the shooter. No further arrests have been made.

IBA hosts holiday party

Independence Business Alliance plans to celebrate achievements in the LGBT business community at its annual holiday party.

It takes place from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 15 at Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, 220 S. 17th St. Tickets cost $55 for IBA members or $75 for non-members.

IBA, Greater Philadelphia’s LGBT chamber of commerce, bills the event as “a chance to meet and be merry” with business owners and corporate and community partners within the LGBT business community.

To purchase tickets, visit www.thinkiba.com/event/iba-holiday-party

— Paige Cooperstein


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