City Council votes to make Office of LGBT Affairs permanent
City Council passed a bill to make the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs permanent. However, because it requires a change to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, is not a done deal.
Introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, in order for the bill to be approved it must be signed by the mayor and then be ratified by voters in the November general election.
The ballot question would read as follows:
"Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish and define the functions of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs, headed by a Director of LGBT Affairs?"
Currently Helen "Nellie" L. Fitzpatrick is the Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs. She was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter last December.
This position was first created by the Mayor's office in April 2008 to serve as a liaison between Philadelphia's LGBT communities and city government, to ensure that the interests of this diverse population is represented across policy areas and initiatives. The office was previously led by Gloria Casarez, the City's first Director of LGBT Affairs, who died in October 2014.
"When I became mayor, I was proud to establish the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs and appoint the late Gloria Casarez as its first director," Nutter said. "Making this office permanent under the City of Philadelphia charter ensures that the LGBT community will continue to be represented in city government, and that the good work done to advance LGBT issues over the last seven years will carry on well into the future."
"Philadelphia has an international reputation as a city that both celebrates diversity and has no tolerance for intolerance. This bill offers the LGBT community a permanent seat and voice at the table," said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. "To a community who too often faces discrimination, it is imperative for them to have a direct line to the mayor and city council. Making this office permanent sends a continued message that, while we have more work to do, we are absolutely up to the challenge."
In the past Reynolds Brown has introduced other LGBT legislation that positively impact the community, including a 2011 bill to require city contractors to offer domestic partner benefits, a 2012 resolution that led to the removal of gender stickers from SEPTA trans passes, which were of great concern to the transgender community, and the 2014 Hate Crime Bill of which she was the lead sponsor.