Candidates attend LGBT forum
Four of the leading Democratic mayoral candidates attended a political forum sponsored by PGN to discuss their positions on LGBT issues with the community.
Mayoral hopefuls William Green, Charles Bowser, William Klenk and Albert Gaudiosi took turns addressing LGBT and ally supporters at the Ethical Society, marking the first time that all major mayoral candidates in any city attended an LGBT forum together.
All four pledged support for a comprehensive gay-rights bill under his administration, although Gaudiosi said he wouldn’t “push” for such legislation and Bowser stressed he’d prefer to wait until the state’s sodomy law had been repealed.
The candidates all criticized the sodomy law, and Green said he would attempt to stem the tide of “unwarranted harassment of gays” by appointing a police commissioner who “will not stop and question people simply for frequenting known gay areas.”
Green was eventually elected mayor.
Brown issues gay-rights order
The then-governor of California Jerry Brown, who now serves as the state’s attorney general and has expressed opposition to Proposition 8, issued an executive order April 4 banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment.
“Government must not single out sexual minorities for harassment or recognize sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination,” Brown said.
Brown was the second governor in the country to take such action; former Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp issued a similar order in 1976. While Brown’s mandate prohibited discrimination in departments, commissions and boards of the executive branch of the state government, Shapp’s also extended to private contractors, housing and delivery of services.
Openly gay California Assemblyman Art Agnos called the order a “small step.”
Police abuse investigated
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a hearing in Philadelphia April 16-17 to collect testimony in its investigation of alleged police abuse in the city, some of which centered on LGBT individuals.
The commission, which was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, also conducted a hearing in Houston — as both cities had reported high levels of civil-rights complaints against their police forces — as part of a police-policy study. During the hearing, PGN publisher Mark Segal testified about a raid on a gay bathhouse, verbal and physical police harassment of patrons outside gay businesses and incidents of officers taking down license-plate numbers in predominantly gay areas.
Ian Lennox, executive vice president of the Citizens’ Crime Commission, told the panel, however, that his agency had not received any formal complaints from members of the LGBT community.
Pennsylvania Advisory Council of the commission also heard testimony from Spencer Coxe, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and LGBT activists Barbara Gittings and Tony Silvestre.
“We testified mainly about the harassment of lesbians and gay men, and their lack of services within the administration of justice,” Silvestre said. “We told them that the police are often reluctant to deal with complaints of gay people. For instance, gays who are abused by hustlers are afraid to go to the police because they don’t think they’ll get the same services other people would get.”
The commission was expected to issue a final report to Congress and the president in November.
— Jen Colletta