Nutter appoints new LGBT affairs director to expand on Casarez’s legacy
Mayor Michael Nutter announced the appointment of Helen "Nellie" L. Fitzpatrick as the Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs effective Jan. 20 of next year.
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 position was previously held by Gloria Casarez, the City's first Director of LGBT Affairs, who died in October 2014.
"We were all deeply saddened by Gloria's passing earlier this year. She was more than just a member of this administration, she was a friend. She was a consummate professional, a deeply committed advocate and wonderful person," Nutter said. "We miss Gloria's vibrancy, but I know that she would, above anything else, want the good work that she championed to continue."
Fitzpatrick joins the administration from the Office of the District Attorney, where she has worked for the past six years as an Assistant District Attorney. During her tenure with the DA's Office, Helen served as a prosecutor in the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit and most recently, as a prosecutor in the Southwest Bureau where she covered armed robbery and weapons offenses.
“By forging relationships built on trust, transparency, and service, I have witnessed firsthand the many and layered challenges faced by members of the LGBT community whose experiences are shaped not only by sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, but by race, color, national origin, disability, socioeconomic status, age, religion, and the varied intersections of these identities,” Fitzpatrick said. “Only when we organize and build community around these differences are we truly able to foster safety, demand accountability, and create a more equal and inclusive Philadelphia.”
As an out and proud lesbian and Philadelphian,” she added, “I am here to serve, protect and share in the joy that is our citizenship in the great city of Philadelphia."
Fitzpatrick has Casarez’s legacy to follow. As director of the city’s LGBT Office, Casarez developed priorities and policy for the administration in a wide range of areas, including health, city services, civil rights, public safety and education. In 2012, the city garnered a second place national ranking in LGBT equality by Human Rights Campaign.
Philadelphia was the highest ranking among the nation’s 10 largest cities and the highest scoring city in states, at that time, without statewide legal protections for LGBT people or marriage equality.
"I promise to work tirelessly to ensure the legacy of Gloria Casarez and work of the entire administration is carried out and set as the foundation for future administrations to come,” Fitzpatrick said.
For the last two years, Fitzpatrick has served as the LGBT liaison to the District Attorney's Office. In that role, she worked closely with the Philadelphia Police Department to strengthen ties between the PPD and the LGBT community, promoting mutual respect and understanding. She also revised policies, procedures and forms to be law-conforming and LGBT-inclusive; served as the point-person on police investigations of crimes affecting LGBT victims; advocated for state-wide, inclusive hate and bias legislation; conducted and organized trainings for victim services personnel; advised community-based organizations on LGBT issues and facilitated coordination between groups; and more.