On May 19, Philadelphians will go to the polls to nominate candidates for district attorney, city controller and numerous judicial benches. PGN spoke with the candidates for city controller, current controller Alan Butkovitz and challenger Brett Mandel; leading DA candidates Dan McCaffery, Dan McElhatton and Seth Williams; openly LGBT judicial candidates Dan Anders and Dawn Segal; and Superior Court candidate Judge John Younge, who has been a friend to the LGBT community in his years on the bench.
PGN asked the Democrats the same questions for each position, and asked all candidates for their position on LGBT issues of importance: nondiscrimination legislation, diversity in hiring, marriage equality and adoption.
Butkovitz, a native Philadelphian and a former state representative, is wrapping up his first term as Philadelphia city controller and is seeking reelection to the position.
During his tenure as a state legislator, 1991-2005, Butkovitz said he voted for legislation to include the LGBT community in statewide hate-crimes and nondiscrimination laws.
Butkovitz, elected city controller in 2005, said high-level members of his staff and campaign are openly gay, and that “there’s a general climate in the office where people know that bias would never be an issue.”
Butkovitz said he favors civil unions for same-sex couples, opposes a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and supports statewide and federal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and the rights of LGBT individuals and couples to become foster or adoptive parents. He said he supports the city’s efforts to enforce the Fair Practices Ordinance with regard to the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council.
Since he took office, Butkovitz said he tripled the number of performance audits that the controller’s office employs each year, which saved the city approximately $413 million, and created a five-year plan to protect city employees’ pensions, which would also save the city more than $300 million in that time.
Last year, Butkovitz released a far-reaching report on the Minority Business Enterprise Council, which evaluated how city contracts were awarded to minority, women and disabled business owners and issued a set of recommendations for increasing minority representation in city contracts.
Butkovitz noted that the city controller is not responsible for allocating city funding for any particular organization or community, but is rather charged with ensuring that funding is properly spent within contract and legal guidelines.
But he said that, if he’s reelected, his office would strive to stamp out any discrimination in city employment and contracts.
“If we were to receive information that government agencies are practicing discrimination, we would make a decision as to if this is something we should send to the Human Relations Commission or something that we could investigate ourselves, which we would,” he said.
Philadelphia native Mandel, the previous director of financial and policy analysis under former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, is challenging Butkovitz for the Democratic nomination.
Mandel earned a master’s in governmental administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s in public policy from Hamilton College.
Most recently, Mandel served as the executive director of Philadelphia Forward, a citizens’ organization that advocates for policy changes to improve tax fairness and to reduce wage and business taxes.
On LGBT issues, Mandel said he goes to acquaintances for advice, noting he has several close friends who are members of the LGBT community.
Mandel also said he has LGBT advisors and volunteers on his campaign, and that he will continue to promote diversity in hiring practices.
“In the controller’s office, obviously you have limited ability to hire your staff because that is civil service, but in my exempt staff, I hope to promote open acceptance in everything that I do,” he said. “Everybody should understand that diversity in the workplace is a wonderful thing and intolerance is unacceptable.”
When asked about furthering equality for the LGBT community and other minorities, Mandel talked about tackling those issues at home.
“As a father, I think I have a special responsibility to make sure that my children understand that diversity in all its forms is a wonderful thing,” he said. “They should know that, in the world that we live in, intolerance for same-sex marriage and adoption is unacceptable.”
On the issue of funding equality for LGBT groups, Mandel said there are only a few instances in which the controller can take action.
“The city controller has to sign off on all payments to vendors and if there is anything contractually that requires them to produce anything or meet certain requirements, we should not pay them until they meet those requirements,” he said.
Mandel said that as city controller, he would do what he could to uphold the Fair Practices Act and promote LGBT equality.
“If we are auditing any agencies and we find any improprieties, I won’t be shy about reporting them,” he said. “If there is anything criminal going on, I won’t be shy about reporting it. The powers of the controller have much more to do with the government spending our money efficiently and effectively. I don’t know if there is something that the controller can do beside leading by example and having a workforce that looks like Philadelphia.”
McCaffery, former assistant district attorney and a native Philadelphian, is the brother of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and currently a partner at Friedman, Schuman, Applebaum, Nemeroff & McCaffery, P.C., in Jenkintown.
McCaffery said he has openly gay employees on his campaign as well as at his firm, and that he would be interested in recruiting assistant district attorneys from GALLOP.
“I’ve long said that I think that the DA’s office should be reflective of the city it represents,” he said. “I would proudly support, hire and train openly gay members from Philadelphia because it’s important to have people from a diverse outlook with an understanding of the city of Philadelphia and its various communities.”
McCaffery said he favors same-sex marriage and supports statewide and federal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and the rights of LGBT individuals and couples to become foster or adoptive parents. He said he also supports the city’s efforts to enforce the Fair Practices Ordinance against the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council.
In addition, McCaffery said he supports the tracking of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity, and would encourage the DA’s legislative unit to advocate for the passage of a bill that would extend statewide hate-crimes protections to the LGBT community.
McCaffery said he would retain the DA’s liaison to the LGBT community and that he’s long believed in the creation of an LGBT victim-witness coordinator in the DA’s office to assist LGBT victims of crime.
He said he supports releasing the Nizah Morris records to the public and noted that “all investigations should be as open and transparent as possible. There can’t be any inconsistencies with respect to how members of the LGBT community are treated when compared to community members at large.”
McCaffery said that, if elected, he would do “anything and everything” in his power to promote LGBT equality.
“It sounds simplistic but for me it’s always been an equal-protection argument. The LGBT community needs the same exact protection under the law that the straight community has. There is no room for discrimination.”
McElhatton, a former assistant district attorney and member of City Council, is also seeking the office of District Attorney.
While a councilmember from 1992-96, McElhatton, a native of Philadelphia who received his law degree from Temple University School of Law, cast a decisive vote in the overriding of then-Mayor Rendell’s veto of legislation to create the Police Advisory Commission, a civilian oversight committee of the Philadelphia Police Department — an action he said drew praise from the LGBT community.
“Even though not all of my district was in favor of the creation of the PAC, and I think I was defeated in my reelection because of that vote. The minority communities I represented — whether that was the Latino, African-American or LGBT communities — had spoken out forcefully in favor of it,” he said, noting the vote was a “very significant example of my willingness to do what I believe to be the right thing.”
McElhatton favors civil unions for same-sex couples, opposes a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and supports statewide and federal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and the rights of LGBT individuals and couples to become foster or adoptive parents. He said he supports the city’s efforts to enforce the Fair Practices Ordinance with regard to the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council.
McElhatton said he would retain the DA’s liaison to the LGBT community, as he believes “it is critical that the DA hear from a diverse cross-section of our communities,” and would recruit assistant district attorneys from the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia.
He said he would favor the creation of a victim’s-assistance position to reach out to victims of crime and supports the tracking of hate crimes motivated by an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I’ve spoken out that an obligation of the DA is to maintain and enforce the laws and particularly enforce hate-crimes laws,” he said. “I think that you also need to make sure that you publicize those hate crimes and the prosecution of them and seek the most severe sanctions you can.”
McElhatton said that while he could not say whether the records relating to the death of transgender individual Nizah Morris, who died after receiving a police courtesy ride, should be released to the public — as he hasn’t had access to review them and would not advocate an action that could compromise confidentiality — he would be committed to investigating all aspects of any crime.
He proffered that the best way to strengthen relations between the LGBT community and the police department and DA’s office is “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”
Williams, former assistant district attorney and City Inspector General, is a lifelong Philadelphian. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University after graduating from Penn State, where he served as the president of the Undergraduate Student Government.
Williams said he favors civil unions for same-sex couples, opposes a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and supports statewide and federal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and the rights of LGBT individuals and couples to become foster or adoptive parents. He said he supports the city’s efforts to enforce the Fair Practices Ordinance against the Boy Scouts.
Williams also said he endorses the tracking of hate crimes motivated by an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity and would support the DA’s legislative unit in lobbying for the inclusion of the LGBT community into statewide hate-crimes laws.
In addition, Williams said he would retain the DA’s liaison to the LGBT community and would consider establishing a victim’s-assistance position. He said he would recruit LGBT attorneys from GALLOP as assistant district attorneys and noted that he hired openly gay attorney Abbe Fletman as his own personal attorney.
Since his attempt to unseat current District Attorney Lynne Abraham in 2005, Williams has continued to advocate for a community-based prosecution plan, in which district attorneys are assigned to specific geographic locations in the city.
He said he would also implement a program that would require cases of abuse between same-sex couples to be prosecuted in the same manner as heterosexual domestic-violence cases.
Williams said he could not yet state if he would publicly release the records from the Nizah Morris case, as he has not reviewed them and would not want to compromise confidentiality, but believes that Morris’ family — with whom his own family is close friends — should have access to the records.
“It would ultimately be nice if the records could be released to the public, but if I couldn’t go that far, I’d try to make them available to the family,” he said.
Williams said his community-based prosecution plan could assist the DA’s office in gaining a better perspective of issues facing the LGBT community.
Openly gay Judge Anders currently serves in the Family Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas and hears cases involving Philadelphia’s at-risk and neglected children.
Anders, who has been endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties, is seeking election to a full 10-year term on the bench.
Prior to his 2007 appointment by Gov. Rendell, Anders practiced at Pepper Hamilton LLP; he earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Anders said he draws advice on LGBT issues from a variety of organizations depending on the issue, including Mazzoni Center, ASIAC, COLOURS Inc. and The Attic Youth Center.
Anders said his efforts to further equality in the LGBT and other minority communities comes from the many hours of pro-bono work he’s done.
“I contributed 350 hours a year every year that I was a lawyer to pro-bono work. That’s probably 3,000 hours of legal work that I’ve provided almost exclusively to LGBT issues. On the community side, I’ve served on the boards of Equality Advocates and AIDS Law Project and I’ve been a visible and active member in many other organizations. I’ve worked with an African-American man who was exercising his right to religion. He was of the Islamic faith and he was unable to do that in the drug and alcohol rehab center where he was. I worked with him to successfully settle his case to practice his faith in a way he thought was appropriate.”
Like most of the other judges, Anders would not comment on the legality of the city’s case against the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council. He did comment about what he would do to promote LGBT equality.
“My goal is to treat everyone who appears in front of me equally,” he said. “When I do have LGBT families for children that come in front of me, I treat them with the same respect as I do any other family.”
Openly lesbian Segal has been a practicing attorney for nearly 25 years, trying domestic, commercial and personal-injury cases in Philadelphia and neighboring counties. The Municipal Court candidate practiced at the U.S. Postal Service and the Office of the City Solicitor, as well as at several law offices. The Temple University of Law School graduate also served as a Judge Pro Tem of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas from 2002-03.
Segal said she has openly LGBT employees on her staff and will continue to promote LGBT diversity in hiring as a Municipal judge.
“I think I would do it without thinking about it,” she said about promoting diversity. “I’m not going to have a homogenous staff were I elected. I would expect a certain level of acceptance, knowledge and appreciation of diversity on my staff and certainly in my courtroom. I would not tolerate anything below acceptance for everyone.”
Segal said her own personal experiences have shaped her view regarding the rights of same-sex couple to marry and adopt.
“I and my partner have two kids and my partner adopted our kids,” she said. “We were involved in fighting for same-sex adoptions.”
Like other judicial candidates, Segal said she could not comment on the state law banning gay marriage or the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty case. However, she did state that she thinks marriage is a right.
She also has strong opinions about the interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
“I believe that it means that everyone in every state is required to honor the laws of any other state regardless of whether that state approves or disapproves of that other state’s laws,” she said. “But, of course, that is not being upheld at all.”
Segal was equally candid about how she would promote LGBT equality as a judge.
“I will treat anyone who comes before me fairly, regardless of their sexual orientation, who they are and what background they come from,” she said.
John Milton Younge
Judge Younge was first elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 1995 and reelected in 2005. The Superior Court candidate is a past president of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, a member of the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and a faculty member of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.
Younge earned his juris doctor from Howard University and a bachelor’s in business administration from Boston University.
While Younge doesn’t have any go-to people for advice on LGBT issues — he consults his “basic sense of fairness” — he does have openly gay employees working for him.
“I do have campaign staffers that are openly gay but, quite honestly, I didn’t know they were gay when they came to work for us,” he said. “I’m proud to say that every aspect of my professional career, as well as my campaign, is about diversity. I think you have to have an idea in your mind that you promote fairness in everything and then look for people that also believe in the same thing. You have to have a willingness to be inclusive.”
Younge’s views on LGBT issues include supporting adoption rights for same-sex couples and the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Younge does not support marriage equality, but instead favors same-sex couples “having all the rights and privileges of marriage to those who are committed to one another.”
Younge added that he would not support an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman.
“I think the constitution should be an enabling document, not a prohibitive document,” he said. “It should give rights, not take rights away.”
Younge declined to give a position on the state law banning gay marriage, whether marriage is a right or the Boy Scout Cradle of Liberty case.
He did say that he would support LBGT equality as a judge by promoting an atmosphere of fairness in his court.
“When people look at the life that I have lived and the kind of people that associate with me, I think I have promoted fairness,” he said. “That is the thing that advances equality for all. When people come into my courtroom, they know that if the law is on their side, they are going to win in spite of anything. That, to me, is how you promote LGBT issues: being fair at all levels.”