Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane made waves this past summer when she declined to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In July, Kane announced that she would not defend the state law against an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Kane was among a number of state officials named as defendants in the suit.
In front of an audience of LGBT and ally supporters July 11 at the National Constitution Center, Kane said equality is the essential meaning of a Democratic society.
“Without this equality, our society would never have achieved desegregation of our schools, marriage equality between interracial couples and women would still not be able to vote or hold office,” Kane said. “Denying equality is the very definition of discrimination.”
Kane said she could not ethically defend the state’s ban when she believes it to be “wholly unconstitutional.”
“Who represents you?” she questioned the audience. “Who is it in this commonwealth that stands up for your rights, your constitutional protections and, in thinking of that, I thought the only person who has that duty and responsibility is the office of the attorney general. And as attorney general, I choose you.”
Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin, whose organization endorsed Kane in 2012, said Kane is on board with the issues important to the LGBT community.
“She is on our side and in support of our issues and unapologetic about it,” he said. “With her, we have an ally and friend in office.”
Kane was released as a defendant in the ACLU suit and the defense of the law was left to the governor’s attorneys. She has since requested to be released from a number of other pending challenges to the law.
Martin said Kane’s stance was a unique and courageous one for an attorney general.
“Anyone who says they believe something is unconstitutional and in a position like she is, is a good thing,” he said. “It educated people on the lives of LGBT people and things like this help to move that conversation, and that is a real result.”
Kathy Padilla and Jordan Gwendolyn Davis
Philadelphia last year adopted an LGBT-equality law that included first-of-its-kind transgender-specific provisions — and local activists Kathy Padilla and Jordan Gwendolyn Davis were integral in pressing for those groundbreaking measures.
Councilman Jim Kenney introduced the LGBT Equality Bill in the spring and Council adopted it in a 14-3 vote. Mayor Michael Nutter signed it into law in May.
The legislation gave tax-credit incentives to businesses that offer employee health plans that include same-sex partners and children and to companies that provide trans-inclusive health care. It also mandated gender-neutral bathrooms in all new city buildings and overhauled the city’s health-care plan to ban any discrimination against non-union transgender city employees.
Padilla and Davis were among the activists who met with Kenney to ensure the legislation was trans-inclusive.
Kenney said although he was worried the transgender protections could affect the legislation’s passage, talking with trans leaders such as Padilla and Davis convinced him those provisions were needed.
“Honestly, when I first started out, I was skeptical about getting it done and getting it passed, but the more and more I understand about the discrimination they faced and what they went through, the more meaningful the legislation became,” he said.
Kenney said he met Padilla at a social event and the two began talking about the potential for the LGBT Equality Bill. Legislative aide Chris Goy got the ball rolling on the legislation, with Padilla and Davis joining the team. Kenney said there were up to 20 meetings to get the bill structured.
In addition to Davis and Padilla, a wealth of people worked to bring the legislation to fruition — including Michael Williams, Gloria Casarez, Rue Landau, Reynelle Stanley, Adrian Shanker, Harvey Hurdle, Chris Labonte, Joe Grace and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the city Law Department.
Davis and Padilla, as well as Dane Menkin and Dolan Kneafsey, shared their stories of living as out trans individuals before City Council.
Kenney said the real-life experiences people like Padilla and Davis detailed were invaluable in laying the foundation for the legislation.
“Life is hard, LGBT life is harder and life for transgender individuals is the hardest,” Kenney said. “We look at all the acceptance of gay men and women today with marriage equality and nondiscrimination, but there is still that barrier for trans people to get over simple things like using the bathroom. Those things we take for granted.”
QSpot celebrated its third year of providing a safe and accepting space for LGBT youth in 2013, and the program’s continued success and evolution continued to be made possible by its dedicated founder and leader, Quincy Greene.
The monthly program is held from May-December and allows youth the opportunity to socialize and take part in skill-building activities. It originally met at Broad Street Ministries but, earlier this year, its continuance was in jeopardy as the church asked for a rental fee.
The program has never had any direct funding and relied instead on private donations.
Greene undertook a search for a new venue and was able to secure discounted space from the William Way LGBT Community Center, which hosted the final four QSpot events of the year.
Brian Green, program director of Family Planning Council’s SafeGuards program, noted that Greene ensures a security guard is present at all events so the youth feel protected.
To contend with costs, Greene was influential in spearheading the launch of the monthly Q-ued Up, a social to raise funds for the program. He also was one of 15 performers who took the stage in “A Night of Legends,” a fundraising concert in the summer.
Despite the financial challenges, Green said Greene has fought hard to make sure LGBT young adults had a productive and positive place to socialize.
“It gives them somewhere to go that is not a bar,” he said. “There may be pressure at other venues for youth to drink or do drugs or do things that are negative so part of the environment of QSpot is to provide a safe spot where they are not bullied or throwing shade at each other.”
In addition to keeping the program going, Greene has become a role model for the youth he serves, Green noted.
“He comes across in a way that is genuine and caring but still engenders respect,” Green said. “These youth look up to him and he can mentor them in a way that a lot of adult leaders try to do, but they don’t have the same connection that he is able to garner with them.”