30 Years Ago

AG: Gays to keep licenses

Pennsylvania Attorney General Gerald Gornish issued a letter to commonwealth secretary Barton Fields Dec. 28 reinforcing the state’s nondiscrimination policy in state licensing.

“It is both the legal opinion of the Justice Department and the policy of this administration that an otherwise-qualified individual may not be denied licensure in a professional occupation merely because of his or her admission of homosexuality,” the letter stated.

Tony Silvestre, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Council for Sexual Minorities, called Gornish’s statement “another benchmark for the movement. Gays with a state license need no longer be in fear of losing it because ‘moral turpitude’ cannot be interpreted to mean homosexuality.”

Penn approves nondiscrimination policy

The University of Pennsylvania, which was the largest private employer in Philadelphia at the time, approved the extension of its nondiscrimination policy to cover “sexual or affectional preference” Jan. 17.

The University Council, a governing body comprised of students, faculty and staff, approved the policy change, the first of its kind at an Ivy League institution, after extensive lobbying from LGBT groups on campus.

“Not only does this policy guarantee the rights of access and advancement within the university for all members who are gay or lesbian, but it also gives those who have been discriminated against access to corrective procedures,” said James Littrell, director of the Lesbian and Gay Task Force.

Candidates for mayor discuss LGBT issues

PGN reporter Tim Cwiek spoke with several of the 1979 Democratic mayoral hopefuls and questioned them on a citywide nondiscrimination bill that would include sexual orientation, eliciting an array of responses.

Bill Green, who eventually won the 1979 election and succeeded then-mayor Frank Rizzo, was vague on his position: “It’s an issue with an enormous amount of misunderstanding, and I want more time to think it through on my own so I can deliver a thoughtful statement rather than an emotional one.”

Other candidates were less cautious in their responses.

“Who’s picking on you guys, anyway?” said James Tayoun. “I don’t know of any particular incidents brought up by my constituents. Personally, I have yet to discriminate against anyone for being gay in my whole life.”

Al Pearlman stated, “It’s your business. I dig making it with a broad. I ain’t going to follow you around and take pictures. You do whatever you want to do, but I’m not gonna make special rules for you unless I see that someone is really harming you. I won’t put up with that.”

Eugene Maier said the push for LGBT rights “could be an attack on the family structure. It looks like an attempt to create a third sex.”

Judge James T. McDermott noted that he didn’t “altogether understand” the issue and said that while he didn’t feel homosexuals should face discrimination, he wasn’t “altogether certain your views ought to be propagated. I’m not sure it’s a happy life.”

Candidate Bill Klenk did not take a definitive position, while Charles Bowser, Albert Gaudiosi and Hardy Williams all said they’d back such legislation. Joseph Bosworth pledged to issue an executive order mandating a nondiscrimination policy and Ethel Allen promised to work with a variety of city agencies to increase awareness of the issue.

Philadelphia City Council passed a bill to expand the city’s nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation in 1982. Then-Councilman Tayoun was one of the 13 councilmembers to vote for the bill; then-Mayor Green declined to sign the legislation but, per City Council procedure, his approval was not necessary.

— Jen Colletta