Philly celebrates Pride at White House

The White House opened its doors to the LGBT community last week for a Pride celebration, at which the City of Brotherly Love was well represented.

Local LGBT leaders were among about 200 guests who headed to Washington, D.C. June 29 for the second-annual LGBT Pride Reception, which featured a meet-and-greet with President Obama and other top leaders.

“Words can’t even really express what the experience was like,” said Chris Alston, president of Philadelphia Black Gay Pride and one of a handful of Philly folks invited to the reception.

Alston got to chat with Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden, as did Jason Landau Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.

Goodman, a student at University of Pennsylvania, said he talked with the Bidens about the school, which two of their children attended, and about the Second Lady’s Philadelphia-area roots.

Goodman was one of five young people across the country invited as college representatives.

Damon Humes and Lawrence Frazier attended as representatives of the House of Blahnik.

“It definitely was an experience, a lifetime experience,” Frazier said. “I don’t know that I’ll get that opportunity ever again.”

Before heading through the crowd to shake hands and take pictures with community members, Obama reviewed his LGBT accomplishments since taking office.

While he shied away from endorsing marriage equality when touching on the recent marriage victory in New York, the president did highlight the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which he said he expected to be finalized in a matter of weeks.

“I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community,” Obama said. “I have delivered on what I promised. Now, that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are going to be times where you’re still frustrated at me. I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated at the pace of change. I understand

that. I know I can count on you to let me know.”

While the local guests said they were impressed with the chance to meet the country’s leaders, they were also excited for the opportunity to network with other LGBT leaders.

“It was a really wonderful time to meet local, statewide and national grassroots leaders involved with the LGBT equality movement,” Goodman said. “And there was a great diversity of people there who are working on the ground throughout the nation.”

Alston, who said he met leaders from places such as California and Texas, said all guests were given the same level of respect from their hosts.

“It was a great feeling and an honor to be invited, and we were really treated exceptionally well — just as guests should be treated,” he said. “It was an unbelievable experience from the time we got there to the time we left.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].