Philadelphia is known for its LGBT-friendly culture and community, and is proud to be a supportive city for both LGBT residents and tourists. In recent months, the city has taken some large strides to mirror the community’s LGBT support in city legislation.
Representative Brian Sims introduced a bill last month to pass same-sex marriage (Bill 1686, the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act).
Representative Sims, the first openly gay person to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, spoke publically about the proposed bill in Philadelphia’s Love Park earlier this month.
“This bill is going to become law,” he said. “There is no chance that Pennsylvania will not join the states that recognize marriage equality. The question is how and when.”
Representative Sims also helped to draft the language for City Councilman Jim Kenney’s LGBT equality legislation, which revised the city’s existing non-discrimination laws to be more inclusive of transgender rights. It is now mandated that all new and renovated city buildings include gender-neutral restrooms in addition to men’s and women’s. It also offers tax credits to businesses that offer healthcare benefits to same-sex couples and their children, making Philadelphia the first United States city to do so.
Councilman Kenney reintroduced the legislation in March, and the Philadelphia City Council passed it unanimously (17-0) on April 25. Mayor Michael Nutter, a great supporter of Philadelphia’s LGBT community, then signed it.
“My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues,” Mayor Nutter told NBC’s Philadelphia affiliate, WCAU, after signing the legislation.
Gloria Casarez, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT affairs, told 429Magazine that while people have focused heavily on the mandatory gender-neutral restrooms, there are other more significant changes made by the new legislation, specifically transgender healthcare rights, a major issue in transgender affairs. Casarez went on to say that Philadelphia has also increased fines and penalties for employers who fire their employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Other changes include an outlawing of gender-identity discrimination, changes to city forms and websites to offer relevant input options for same-sex couples and transgender people, as well as medical and end of life decision-making rights to same-sex partners.
According to a press release sent to 429Magazine from Councilman Kenney’s office, “Philadelphia has become the largest city in the U.S. (alongside 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies and the Cities of Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco) to proactively end healthcare discrimination for its own transgender city employees.”
Councilman Kenney believes the amended LGBT equality legislation to be a landmark achievement for Philadelphia.
“Our constitution is crystal clear; equal protection under the law means equal protection under the law,” said Kenney, according to the press release. “We are confident that with the passage of this legislation, LGBT people nationwide will increasingly look at Philadelphia as premiere destination for travel and as an extremely friendly and safe place to live and work for all people.”
Nurit Shein, CEO of the Mazzoni Center—the city’s only healthcare provider that specifically targets the healthcare needs of the LGBT community—is thrilled to see LGBT progress continue in Philadelphia.
“At Mazzoni Center, we believe there is a direct relationship between recognition of a person’s legal rights and their ability to enjoy optimal health and quality of life,” Shein told 429Magazine. “Having this kind of legislation in place sends an important message about equality and fairness under the law, and naturally makes us a proud city!”
The quest to become even more LGBT-friendly presses on with Representative Sims’ marriage equality bill, which was introduced last month. Pennsylvania still has not legalized same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.
Republican governor Tom Corbett filed legal briefs to defend the existing anti-gay marriage laws. His attorneys argue that same-sex marriage is the same as legalizing marriage between twelve-year-olds.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a brief filed by the state reads: “Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to twelve-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each twelve-year-old…is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?”
When Philadelphia news anchor Sherry Christianson questioned the statement, Corbett said, “It was an inappropriate analogy, you know…I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”