‘Gittings Way’ in the works
by Jen Colletta
Jun 21, 2012 | 1149 views | 3 3 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The legacy of early gay-rights pioneer Barbara Gittings could be immortalized in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood in the coming months.

A committee of Philadelphia City Council last week unanimously approved a measure authorizing the naming of Locust Street between 12th and 13th streets as Barbara Gittings Way.

The measure was introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district encompasses the Gayborhood, along with Councilman Jim Kenney June 14 and passed out of committee the same day.

It will come before the full council in September, following its summer recess.

Organizers are aiming to unveil the signs to coincide with the launch of Gay History Month in October.

Squilla said at least two signs will be affixed and the city will cover the cost, which he estimated to be a couple hundred dollars.

The idea for the street-renaming was first proposed by Equality Forum.

“Washington, D.C., has a Frank Kameny Way and San Francisco has a Harvey Milk Plaza, so we thought it was important we in Philadelphia honor Barbara, who we view as the mother of the LGBT civil-rights movement,” said Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin.

As noted in the resolution, Gittings, a native Philadelphian who died in 2007, was instrumental in organizing the “Annual Reminders” of the 1960s at Independence Hall, some of the earliest gay-rights demonstrations in the nation.

Gittings founded the New York chapter of the Daughter of Bilitis and was an editor of the group’s publication. Gittings is credited with helping to secure the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s listing of mental illnesses.

Lazin said a number of local agencies, such as Equality Pennsylvania and William Way LGBT Community Center, are backing the initiative, as is a bipartisan group of councilmembers, whom he believes will unanimously pass the resolution this fall.

Squilla said he strongly supported the suggestion, and thinks the proposed location is representative of Gittings’ storied work on behalf of the gay community.

“What better place than right in the Gayborhood? That block of Locust is right in the middle of the Gayborhood and a location that people can really relate to. I thought it seemed like a good fit.”

Gittings’ longtime partner Kay Lahusen welcomed the initiative.

“I know Barbara would have been thrilled by this turn of events had she lived to see it,” she said. “I’m very grateful to Equality Forum for initiating this idea and especially am happy that this block is in the very heart of the Gayborhood.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jay Pegg
July 01, 2012
And George Washington chopped down the cherry tree.
Cei Bell
June 21, 2012
While it is appropriate to say that Barbara Gittings was a lesbian and gay activist it is inappropriate to call her the mother of the LGBT movement since she wasn't supportive of trans rights. Lesbian and gay doesn't automaticaly mean LGBT. Some people will remember that she had other problems with other groups.
June 30, 2012
Barbara was one of the pioneers of the movement and deserves the recognition and our respect.