News Briefing

PAC keeps after Morris records

Members of the city’s Police Advisory Commission are continuing to discuss the possibility of signing a confidentiality agreement prior to reviewing records related to the Nizah Morris homicide, which are housed at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Morris, 47, was a transgender woman who received a courtesy ride from Philadelphia police on Dec. 22, 2002, and was discovered with a head wound shortly afterward. She died two days later.

Philadelphia police officials say they’ve lost the Morris homicide file, and the PAC wants access to records within the D.A.’s file to gain a comprehensive understanding of the case.

In August, the PAC subpoenaed the D.A.’s Office for all reports, interview notes, memoranda, cell-phone records and search warrants related to those records in the D.A.’s Morris file.

The D.A.’s Office declined to comply with the subpoena, but the office reportedly has offered to make additional records available to the PAC if the members sign a confidentiality agreement.

PAC executive director William Johnson said he did not have details of the proposed confidentiality agreement, and that initially thought the document review would have taken place by Nov. 30.

“Sometimes you don’t know what the delays will be until you get involved in the process,” he said. “At this point, we’re working to overcome the delays and to move forward with the process.”

Johnson said the proposed confidentiality agreement may be discussed at the PAC’s next public meeting, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at 34 S. 11th St., sixth floor.

Kathleen R. Padilla, a transgender activist, wants all relevant Morris records opened to the public.

“I hope the PAC members won’t sign anything that jeopardizes the public’s right to know what happened to Nizah Morris,” Padilla said. “Given the loss of the police department’s homicide file, the records that have been retained by the D.A.’s Office are all the more important for public review.”

PCHR jurisdictional challenge unresolved

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has not yet decided whether to investigate the case of a gay man who claims he was forced out of a job as a social worker at a Center City hospice due to his sexual orientation.

Francis J. Stucker filed his complaint against St. John’s Hospice on Nov. 19, 2007, but the complaint is being held in abeyance until the PCHR decides whether it has jurisdiction to investigate the matter.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is challenging the commission’s jurisdiction, noting that religious organizations are exempt from the anti-bias requirements in the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

But supporters of Stucker point out that the hospice receives city funding, and the PCHR is responsible for ensuring that city dollars are not spent in a discriminatory manner.

“The commissioners are still grappling with the jurisdictional issue with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said Jack Fingerman, a PCHR spokesperson. “They expect it may come up at the January or February public meeting.”

The next public meeting of the PCHR will be held at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at The Curtis Building, 601 Walnut St., third floor south conference room.

— Tim Cwiek

Community to rally against DOMA

Members of the local LGBT and ally communities will take part in a national protest against the Defense of Marriage Act beginning at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at City Hall.

The effort, coordinated by Join The Impact, which orchestrated the successful November Proposition 8 protests, will be repeated in cities throughout the country to encourage President-elect Obama to follow through on his pledge to repeal DOMA, which bans same-sex marriage at the federal level.

Participants in the Philadelphia protest are also encouraged to bring signs and posters that urge the new administration to make LGBT rights a priority.

COLOURS hosts transgender forum

LGBT people of color group The COLOURS Organization Inc. will focus on transgender issues at a community forum from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 15 at 112 N. Broad St., first-floor conference room.

“Same, But Different” will bring together community members to discuss the harassment and discrimination that local transgender citizens face and seek viable solutions.

The forum is part of a monthly series sponsored by COLOURS and other local organizations that aim to create dialogue on the myriad issues affecting all facets of the local LGBT community.

For more information, call (215) 496-0330.

Out performers take center’s stage

Openly gay entertainers Keith Kaczorowski, Melissa Kolczynski and Tom Wilson Weinberg will put a quirky, comedic spin on cabaret classics in the aptly named “Keith, Melissa and Tom Show” at both 7 and 9 p.m. Jan. 16 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.

The trio, who will donate 20 percent of ticket sales to the center’s library, will apply their own musical stylings to the works of such composers as Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein, among many others.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at or or by calling (215) 847-2820.

— Jen Colletta

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