Michael Weinstein Should Resign

If you haven’t heard, there is a feud going on between the head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is the largest global HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the world, and HIV/AIDS activists over his position on PrEP.

What is PrEP you are surely asking by now. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a new HIV prevention method, in which people who do not have HIV take a daily pill to reduce their risk of becoming infected. When used consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection among adult men and women at very high risk for HIV infection through sex or injecting drug use.”

According to activist Michael Lucas, in an OP-ED piece for OUT magazine, “In the last twelve months PrEP, the HIV-prevention strategy that relies on a medication called Truvada, has gotten the attention of the national news media.” He adds that “it’s arguably the most important breakthrough in HIV medicine since the mid-1990s, when HIV was made no longer a death sentence, thanks to retro-antivirals and protease inhibitors.”

“The latest research shows that people who take PrEP on a daily basis achieve upwards of 90 percent protection from the virus. That’s a conservative estimate. In the largest study to date, not a single person who took PrEP as prescribed became HIV positive,” Lucas writes.

According to the Associated Press, “many doctors and activists see immense promise for such preventive use of Truvada, and are campaigning hard to raise awareness of it as a crucial step toward reducing new HIV infections, which now total about 50,000 a year in the U.S.”

So where’s the problem you may ask.

Well Michael Weinstein, head AHF, seems to be the problem. Weinstein told ABC News, “I think it [PrEP] will be a catastrophe for HIV prevention in this country,”

According to the AP, Weinstein stated that “If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that . . . Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”

Lucas writes that in “Weinstein’s eyes, PrEP isn’t about public health. It’s just a highly expensive way for those horny, irresponsible gays to go back to their barebacking-gone-wild.”

Lucas and a growing number of HIV/AIDS activists across the country are now calling on Weinstein to resign as President of AHF. Lucas thinks that “this man’s prurient imagination, gays are too busy enjoying their bareback orgies to be trusted with taking a once-daily pill. In his view, gay men using PrEP will stir up a frothy new drug-resistant strain of the virus. What evidence exists that this is a valid scientific concern? None. He has not even credited the fact that this form of prevention might and is being used by responsible gay men regardless of the sexual activity they are engaged in. Mr. Weinstein’s anti-PrEP position is an extension of his long-standing anti-promiscuity crusade and more importantly his continuation of harmful shame tactics.”

I agree with Lucas, “It’s now time to for our community to fight back against his shame-on-us rhetoric. It’s time for us to fight back and say, ‘shame on him.’”

PrEP has the potential to put a major dent in new cases of HIV infection, which now total about 50,000 per year in the U.S. alone, and is an exciting tool to help combat the spread of HIV globally.

Truvada costs between $8,000 and $14,000 per year and is too costly for far too many who are at risk so we need to work on reducing the cost and making it more widely accessible for this to be an effective tool. To simply call it “a party drug,” is just wrong and offensive to so many at risk individuals.

Weinstein must resign due to his outdated condoms only approach to safer-sex and HIV prevention. The research is there and he either needs to get with the times or step aside for the good of our community.

Victory Fund.01

Victory Is Worth It

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of joining Mel Heifetz, Brian Sims, Anthony Lombardo, Chris Bartlett, Sherrie Cohen, Kathy Padilla and other Philadelphians attending the Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington DC. It was a well-attended event with individuals coming in from across the country.

But what is the Victory Fund you may be asking and who cares about some brunch?

The Victory Fund, or simply known now as Victory, “works to elect LGBT leaders to public office for one simple reason.  They change America’s politics.”

I’ve followed Victory for many years now and can attest to the great work they do at training out candidates and their staffs, both Democrats and Republicans, and everything in between, to win an election.

According to the Victory mission statement, they believe that, “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender office holders are our clearest and most convincing champions for true equality.  As leaders in government, they become the face and voice of a community.  They challenge the lies of extremists and speak authentically about themselves, their families and their community.”

How true this statement is!  We require a seat and voice at the table, especially in our legislative offices.  Locally, state-wide, and nationally, it is vital to the advancement of equality that out elected officials continue to be elected.

According to Victory, it was created in May 1991, “by advocates who believed democracy works best for LGBT Americans when our community is reflected in the political leadership at all levels of government.  Our founders set out to grow the number of openly LGBT elected officials by engaging donors to support the campaigns of out candidates.”

In 1991 there were “just 49 openly LGBT elected officials served in the U.S.  Today, the vision of Victory’s founders is being realized in remarkable ways.  More than 500 out elected officials serve at all levels of government.”

This year there are over 200 out candidates running for office nationwide.  Victory matters.

That’s why I’ve already registered for Victory’s LGBT Leaders 2014 International Leadership Conference, Dec. 4-7, in Washington, DC, where I will gather with hundreds of “openly LGBT leaders in government, politics, advocacy, business and community organizations” for the purpose of “training, skills building, networking and discussion of key issues facing out leaders and their communities.”

It wasn’t just a brunch,  it was an opportunity to become inspired by the excitement in the room and the growing victories across the nation.  The dedication of individuals and groups from our youth, our next generation, to this generation, victory is ours, but only if we are in the race in the first place.

Medical Marijuana: A National Policy

My first exposure to marijuana was in the 70’s.  My parents had an elderly couple who in their 70’s regularly smoked it.  I was taught then that smoking pot, like alcohol, was an adult recreational activity. So while it was as pervasive amongst my peers, and as a teenager going through the awkwardness of puberty into early adulthood, I promised myself that I would not try it until after I graduated from high school.

It should be noted that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. It also happens to be the safest, but the stigma of history was a pack of lies perpetuated in the ‘ gilded age,’ by those whose fortunes depended upon timber, for paper, and hemp, poised to replace the raw product at a substantially reduced cost, threatened such  fatcats  as William Randolph Hearst.

My first exposure to marijuana for medical use was in the 80’s when my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. He became a user to counter the effects of his chemo treatments. A small group of us would get my uncle the medicine that he needed.  Since then 20 states, (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) plus the District of Colombia now allow marijuana for medical use.

I’m sure I do not have to go through the positive attributes of medical marijuana just to say that it is God’s little wonder drug for helping children with seizure disorders to the elderly with other disorders, too numerous to mention here.  In fact, 76% of doctors in the United  States  and about 78% of doctors outside the U.S. would approve the use of medical marijuana.

Eight out of ten Americans support the medical use of marijuana, and nearly 3 out of 4 Americans support a fine-only (no jail) for recreational smokers, and 58% of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, according to the most recent Gallup poll study.

But even in states where medical marijuana is legal, particularly in New Jersey, it is still difficult to obtain the needed medicine because of a poor distribution model and failure to allow patients to grow their own plants.

Some or all patients and/or their caregivers can cultivate in 15 of the 20 states. Home cultivation is not allowed in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, or the District of Columbia and a special license is required in New Mexico. In Arizona, patients can only cultivate if they lived 25 miles or more from a dispensary when they applied for their card. In Massachusetts, patients can only cultivate if they have a hardship waiver. In Nevada, patients can cultivate if they live more than 25 miles from a dispensary, if they are not able to reasonably travel to a dispensary, or if no dispensaries in the patients’ counties are able to supply the strains they need. In addition, Nevada patients who were growing by July 1, 2013 may continue to grow until March 31, 2016. Confused yet?

When a state is charging $450 an ounce for medicine it seems more just in allowing all medical marijuana patients to have access to home cultivation. However, patients in need were not probably raised on a farm, so enabling them to grow themselves what they need is just another chore for those who need it the most. The state is clearly charging an unneeded tax on licensed medication.

While we march forward with the expansion of legal medical marijuana across the states, our federal government needs to get on board with a realistic national policy that grants patient access to one of nature’s prolific medicines at manageable prices. No longer should parents have to beg for help accessing marijuana for their sick children.  Gone should be the days when otherwise law abiding citizens can stop shopping in the streets for their medicine. Please respect the potential of this plant. Study it without preconceptions. Some believe it is, “God given.”


Mark Nadler Wows Philadelphia @ Must See Show

If there ever was a must-see theater piece from “out of town” that arrived in Philadelphia, then it’s definitely “I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Musik from the Weimar and Beyond,” a one-man show, written and performed by the brilliant showman Mark Nadler, now through April 12, at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, in association with Karen Lotman Productions.

Nadler, celebrated for his highly successful off-Broadway show performed to sold-out audiences, is more than a cabaret performer, but also a singer, pianist, actor, historian, and genealogist, as he engages the audience through the world of German cabarets, the songs, the composers, the performers, and the clubs that flourished between the first and second World Wars. That period that allowed unprecedented freedoms of all kinds from behavior to sexuality (gays, in particular, enjoyed a liberating lifestyle) was known as the Weimar Republic, before Adolph Hitler’s rise to power and the witch hunt of gays and Jews.

Nadler is to the Weimar Republic as Michael Feinstein is to the American Songbook. Like Feinstein, Nadler is totally absorbed and dedicated to his chosen period of history with complete passion and appreciation of the songs and stories, from parody to comedy to defiance. The composers—Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Friedrich Hollaender, among others—wrote songs that “expressed declarations of identity and resistance in the face of terror for the Jewish and gay people who created them.”

“Through the songs of these cabarets and the stories of those who wrote and sang them, we follow the profound journeys of Hitler’s ‘degenerates’—the ultimate outsiders,” something that Nadler instructs and reminds the audience with intelligence and grace.

As a musical historian, Nadler enchants us into appreciating the songs that he performs “that helped define Broadway in its golden age, and tells the story of how they are inextricably linked to a magical—and sinister—several years in Berlin where underground German cabarets flourished between the two World Wars.” He brings such context to the content that we gain a new understanding of the status, inspiration and influence that the Weimar “greats” had on such diverse French and American songwriters such as Charles Aznavour, Ira Gershwin, Arthur Schwartz, and Howard Dietz.

The show truly has “epic qualities” as well as a “poignantly personal journey” that ends Nadler’s brilliant performance. The audience is profoundly moved and delighted by the surprise ending to what can only be described as “unexpected.” To reveal the secret would to ruin Nadler’s finale. You only need to attend a performance—and there you’ll share in The Helpmann Award-winning show.

The distinguished and critically-acclaimed David Schweizer as director (with a long and impressive stage and opera career) has collaborated closely, personally, with Nadler bringing to the show elements of the production that compliment and enhance both the materials and the stage performance. Nadler is joined with musical accompaniment by Vena Johnson and Rosie Langabeer.

Quoting from The Huffington Post, they said it best: “A must-see show! An alternately brooding and ebullient recreation of what it was like to be in a Berlin cabaret during the 1920s.”

Danger in the Gayborhood

There seems to be a serial armed robber in the gayborhood. The man, according to, is “described as being light-skinned, 35 to 40 years of age, and approximately 6-foot and 180 pounds.” In the last three weeks he has robbed Danny’s Adam & Eve on 13th Street, Spruce Street Video on 12th Street, once each and Scorpio Adult Boutique & Video on Juniper Street twice.

Franny Price of Spruce Street Video posted on her Facebook page that since the robbery the police have been stopping in to check on her welfare. It should be noted that Price sits on the Philadelphia LGBT Police Liaison Committee. I hope the police have been stopping in at Danny’s or Scorpio out of such concern.

This month alone we have had four armed robberies plus a shooting outside of Woody’s and a stabbing outside of the Venture Inn. This on top of recent muggings makes the Gayborhood a place you need to clearly watch your back while walking about.

Coincidence or planned, the Philadelphia District Attorney sent out the following invitation to select members of the community. I feel we need a wider distribution of it.

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office LGBTQ Forum
Topic: Community Safety
Date: April 1, 2014
Time: 5:00 – 7:00pm
Location: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
Three South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107

The District Attorney of Philadelphia, Seth Williams, welcomes all members of the LGBTQ community to the District Attorney’s Office for an open forum addressing community safety. Please join us, along with members of the Philadelphia Police Department, to discuss crime prevention and public safety on April 1, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:00pm at the District Attorney’s Office, located at Three South Penn Square.

Please feel free to contact Assistant District Attorney Nellie Fitzpatrick with questions or concerns at or 215.686.8093.215.686.

Seth Williams has expressed great solidarity with our community and we applaud him for holding this forum on LGBTQ community safety. However, without wide participation from community members, this forum will not be as informative as it could be. It’s important that as many community members as possible, from business owners to club goers alike, attend this forum to voice your concerns.

What could we possibly want from such a forum?

How about an increase in the police presence around the gayborhood? And I am not talking about a police officer sitting in his car. I mean real old time foot patrol. But rumor has it that the police have no interest in increasing patrols in the Gayborhood when they have areas of the city that have murders to deal with.

So what’s the point of all this?

I think it is two-fold. One, to spread the word about the current dangers of the Gayborhood so that the community is more vigilant for the sake of safety and two, to get as many community members as possible to the Seth Williams LGBTQ Community Safety Forum. Spread the word and show up to voice your concerns.

“God Hates Fags” Pastor Dead

First, I would like to thank all those who came out to Kiss Me I’m Irish & Gay @ Ubar, the official Gayborhood St. Patrick’s Day party, for making our event so successful.  To the staff of Ubar, you rock! You did an outstanding, above the call of duty job. A special shout out to the management, Randal & Howard, for going out of your way by helping us put on a wonderful event.  To Stephen Carlino and Dennis Fee, the owners of Ubar, thank you for your generosity and continued support. And to all our volunteers, we could not have done it without you.

We at QUEERtimes are truly grateful to each of you, thank you!

So the day has finally come. Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died at the age of 84.

The Westboro Baptist Church, founded in 1955, is known for being vehemently anti-LGBTQ, with their “God Hat Fags” moniker and their protests at military funerals where they praise the deaths of our military personnel because they were caused by God, who is punishing America for its tolerance of LGBTQ peoples.

Of interest to note, Phelps had been excommunicated from the church in August 2013. The Topeka Capital-Journal later reported the excommunication occurred after he called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.

Here is a man who made life miserable for so many under the guise that all was being done for the glory of God.  Unfortunately Phelps and his followers got lost along the way.  What they mistook as God’s righteous love was really hate . . . nothing more, nothing less.

But what should be our response to his death?

The Phelps clan is requesting privacy so they can morn in peace.  Yet how many families peace was disturbed by them over the decades of protesting at funerals?

Should we give them their private time to morn or should we come out full tilt and protest Phelps’ funeral?

Yes, we can go out to the lowering of the casket, singing, “ding dong the witch is dead,” but where is that going to get us?  Perhaps a kissing demonstration would rattle their nerves as they leave the gravesite and wonder how God could do that to them as they have done to countless others?

Some think a special place awaits him where Satan can deliver some poetic justice. Use your own imagination here.

I tend to think that we should simply ignore his passing and hope that God is merciful to the unjust.

For those looking for an outlet to celebrate the passing of Phelps I suggest choosing an LGBTQ charity and donating money in Phelps’ name and send the donation notice to the Westboro Baptist Church, 3701 SW 12th St, Topeka, KS 66604.

The Pope and Civil Unions

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  With this comment, Pope Francis shook the world and now this.  According to the NY Daily News, when “asked whether the church can understand legalizing same-sex unions, Francis said that governments used civil unions to give cohabitating couples economic security and access to important services such as health care. Secular states ‘justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation,’” he said in a translation provided by the National Catholic Register.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” Francis said. But “one needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.” Pope Francis has laid the grounds for dramatic change globally, with just a few words from this seemingly ultra-wise commoner. He will, I believe be, the ultimate catalyst, for the future of a great many, even beyond any LGBTQ.

Francis stated that he is willing to evaluate the Church’s position regarding same-sex unions.

Francis suggested that he understands the modern need for civil unions—but he isn’t budging on the Catholic Church’s stance against gay marriage. Once again, accept the baby steps.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, the Pope did not affirm same-sex marriage, nor did he announce the Holy See’s support of civil unions.  According to The New Your Times, “his words about civil unions actually appeared to be about health care and economic equality, not marriage itself.”

The Catholic News Service reported, the Pope said that moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.” Clearly the Pope needs some education to bring him from the nineties to these 21st century commonalities.  Today we understand that same-sex relationships and families are manifest in the same way as heterosexual relationships and families.

A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times. But what distinguishes a marriage from a civil union? Should this couple that may receive the blessedness of children be baptized as the offspring or adoption of a civil union, or the full equality that heterosexual marriage brings?

Francis’ Ash Wednesday’s comments are “the first time a Pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions,” according to Catholic News Service.

Francis’ comments set the internet on fire with support and disapproval coming from both sides.

I belong to a Facebook alumni group for my university, which is a rather conservative institution, and one of the more conservative members stated, “the militant LGBT religion will cause yet another church to split (a schism) and I will stay with the true church (the one that is true to Sacred Scripture). If this is the truth about Pope Francis…you can have him!” I hope the Pope will forgive our recent Anti-scripture shellfish eating contest, combining cotton and polyester fabrics as necessary for the event. Hell is reserved for ignorance and the act of being stagnant, my dear alumni.

The right is already thinking a schism is coming and Francis as a false Pope.  But many of us loyal Catholics see Francis as a breath of fresh air in the Church which is seeking a way to return the Church’s LGBT members back to the fold . . . as openly LGBT individuals.

Francis’ openness to members of our community is a beautiful gesture of Christ’s love towards all of us and while I have no clue as to how far he will take reforms, I am blessed to know that Francis is now leading the Church with the grace of the Holy Spirit.  For that we can be thankful for.

Aid to Uganda Must End

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a central African nation of approximately 34,758,809 people made up of 41.9% Roman Catholic, 42% Protestant ( Composed of Anglican, 35.9%, Pentecostal, 4.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist, 1.5%),12.1% Muslim, 3.1% other and 0.9% who identify with any religion, signed a law Monday that imposes tough penalties for “homosexual offences.”

“Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money,” Musaveni said.

Lawmakers in the conservative nation sought tougher legislation, saying the influence of Western lifestyles risked destroying family units.

“1.54 pm: Officially illegal — President Museveni signs law to send me to jail,” Frank Mugisha, a QUEERtimes contributor and prominent Ugandan gay rights activist, wrote in a tweet.

The law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults as well as same-sex acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.

The law also increases sentences for attempted same-sex acts. Under the law, anyone who “attempts to commit the offense of homosexuality” is considered guilty of a felony. The charge is very loosely described, and considering that touching another person already carries a sentence of life in prison, this could refer to as little as flirting between two people of the same sex. At the same time, any person who “keeps a house, room, set of rooms, or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality” can also face seven years in jail.

The bill also criminalizes “promoting” homosexuality, recommending seven years in prison to any individuals offering counseling or other services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

The question is how do we as a country respond to such a law against humanity? U.S. aid to Uganda for 2014 is $456.3 million and the question we should ask is, do we stop aid to Uganda over this issue?

While we ponder that the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, has meanwhile proposed halting Washington’s aid to Uganda. Thank you, Senator Leahy for leading us by taking a stand against this draconian anti-LGBTQ law.

So far the Netherlands have frozen a $9.6m subsidy to Uganda’s legal system, arguing that, “if the judiciary is to enforce such laws, we do not wish to assist that process”. And Denmark and Norway said they would redirect around $8.5m each in government aid towards private sector initiatives, aid agencies and rights organizations.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries, where most sodomy laws were introduced during colonialism and today promoted and advanced by U.S. Evangelical Christian Churches. We in America must expect our government to take the lead against human oppression and do everything in its power to stand against such laws in any nation, especially ones that receive U.S. aid.

And what of our poor brothers and sisters in harm’s way? What should be our responsibility to them? One idea might be to offer political asylum immediately to any individual who presents themselves as LGBTQ from any nation that has criminalized homosexuality. One simple problem with that is that how would they be found, and would they have to find us before their own populations killed them. What of the criminals that might try to use this as an opportunity for fast-track immigration?

We must not stand by as innocent people go to prison for life, or for any amount of time simply for being who they are.

And we must set the example against discrimination in our own country by passing a federal non-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

This would be the ideal time for the Pope to step up with words of encouragement or even visit personally to espouse the idea of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” If nearly 42% of the country is Catholic, he may be able to sway some opinion. Add to that the 42% who claim to be Christian, and his message of acceptance may grow deep roots. In the meantime, economic sanctions will clearly demonstrate our repugnance towards this brutal law. I wonder how many of our tax dollars are personally siphoned by the despot Musaveni? $456.3 million is a lot of money to give to a man who just signed into law what will ultimately end in witch hunts, on a scale that will rival the Inquisition.

A Place Called Home

I’m on vacation this week and wanted to reflect on my home city Philadelphia.

My first trip to Philadelphia was in 1976 for the Bicentennial.  I was a Boy Scout then and a group of us wanted to take a hike of the historical inner city trails.  It was a wonderful experience and even today I smile as I pass landmarks I first saw on the hike as a 16 year old boy.

I was born on Long Island and spent the first 17 years of my life there until I graduated from high school and entered the United States Air Force where I was of all things a nuclear weapons specialist working on the internal components of the Minuteman II warheads.  To say the least this was a trip for a kid right out of high school to be working on live nuclear warheads, but I did it with relish.

That was until a conscience grew over what I was doing and at the age of 19 I told my First Sergeant that I could no longer, out of a matter of conscience, work on nuclear warheads.  That statement alone got my security clearance revoked and I was assigned to the barracks until they could decide what to do with me.

To make a long story short, I, through excellent advice of my First Sergeant, was granted an honorable discharge and said goodbye to my career in the Air Force.

I returned to Long Island where I entered college studying for a degree in marketing.  Through a work/study program at my college I moved to London for a couple of semesters and ended up traveling most of Europe.  From the grand cities with their rich cathedrals to same towns and their local pubs and cafes this 21 year old was living life to the fullest and enjoying every minute of it.

My return led me back to Long Island and work.  I started working in the nightclub/restaurant/hotel industry on the Island but quickly advanced my career when I was recruited to work for Leona Helmsley at the St. Moritz Hotel on NYC’s Central Park South.  I was on top of the world working in the greatest city in the world.

But there was more I was supposed to be doing.  I left the hotel and went to a university where I received my degree in Mental Health and Human Services. My time at the university was life changing. Having spent time in prayer and spiritual counseling I believed that I was being called to be a Catholic priest and so began my slow 5 year journey back to Philadelphia.

When I began studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, they chose to send me to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.,  just outside of Philadelphia.

On my free time I explored all of Philadelphia, and I mean all of it.  I drove through neighborhoods that many Philadelphians rarely see.

When my pursuit for the priesthood ended in 1994 I had to make a decision where I was going to live.  Do I return to Long Island or do I stay in Philly?

The fact was that Philadelphia stole my heart and I couldn’t leave it.  The city of brotherly love and sisterly affection had taken hold and wouldn’t let go.

For all my travels and adventures, for all my successes and failures, I have to say the Philadelphia is the greatest city in the world and is the place I call home.

Thank you Philadelphia!

A Place At City Council’s Table

Where in the hell is our LGBTQ political leadership in this city? Where are our political allies? This has been my question since the announcement that Councilperson Bill Green was resigning his seat on Philadelphia City Council.

Why has there not been a groundswell of support in making that open Philadelphia City Council seat an LGBT seat?

We have paid our dues, provided our dollars, time and votes as one of the most loyal groups in the Democratic Party. No one can fault the efforts put forth by Philadelphia’s LGBTQ democrats when it comes to being a workhorse for the Democratic Committee.

Now I’m not advocating one candidate over another because there are a number of qualified out candidates who would make excellent Council members. What I am advocating is the principle that as the fourth largest city in the country we not only deserve an out elected city official we need one.

Philadelphia is an embarrassment when it comes to it not having an out elected city official and the time has come to bring that sad fact to an end.

Congressman Brady holds the keys to who will be the next democrat to be on City Council and the ward leaders have the vote. These are the people who need to hear from us.

To begin with, I received a letter this week addressed to Congressmen Brady, signed by 14 of the city’s LGBT & HIV Executive Directors Group, calling on him to “select a member of the LGBT community as its nominee in the special election.”

The letter in full reads:

Honorable Robert Brady
Democratic City Committee
219 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123

February 9, 2014

Dear Chairman Brady:

We, the undersigned members of the Philadelphia LGBT and HIV Executive Directors Group in our individual and not organizational capacities, request that the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee call a special election to fill the vacancy created by the departure of At Large City Councilman Bill Green and select a member of the LGBT community as its nominee in the special election.

The LGBT community has been a loyal constituency of the Democratic Party providing votes, talent, volunteers, and financial support. Philadelphia with San Jose, California, are the only two of the ten largest U.S. cities that does not have an openly gay LGBT elected member on its legislative body.

Houston and Seattle have out gay mayors. Dallas, Texas has an out elected sheriff. There are currently out local legislators in Doylestown, Easton, Harrisburg, Meadville, Millersburg, New Hope, Norristown, Pittsburgh, and Roslyn, Pennsylvania.

We believe that this vacancy presents the Philadelphia City Committee with a unique opportunity to correct this inequality.

It is our request that you use your prestige to encourage the Democratic City Committee to honor our request and to call for a special election in 2014.

This letter was signed by Chris Bartlett of William Way Community Center; Elicia Gonzales, GALAEI; Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum; Jose Benitez, Prevention Point; Brian M. Green, SafeGuards; Ted Martin, Equality PA; Kevin Burns, ActionAIDS; Samantha Giusti, Delaware Valley Legacy Fund; Franny Price, Philly Pride Presents; Casey Cook, Bread & Roses; Carrie Jacobs, Attic Youth Center; Robb Reichard, AIDS Fund; Alison Gerig; Nurit Shein, Mazzoni Center.

This is a start. I understand that a petition will be started shortly to make the same request.

But where is the Liberty City Democrats on this matter? If they say nothing on this matter then we should consider them irrelevant to LGBTQ politics in this city. That’s how important the issue is.

As for Mark Segal who claims a personal relationship with Bob Brady we can forget about his help on the matter. He will simply kowtow to the will of the party and any insiders deal then make waves and take a stand for an LGBTQ candidate. This man, who has Brady’s ear, simply does not think it is going to happen is doing nothing to help it. That makes him also irrelevant to the future of LGBTQ politics in this city.

Action is needed. Contact your councilperson and explain to them how this position should and must be LGBTQ for the good of Philadelphia and let’s see where they stand. Many claim to be our allies now let’s see if they will stand with us on this issue too. The more emails they receive on this matter to more attention they will give to it.

We need to be loud and in your face on this issue and unless you can give me a sound argument why the open City Council seat should not have an LGBTQ candidate running in the election then you need to get off your butts and take action today. Take to Facebook and Twitter . . . Make some noise people.