A victory lap for LGBT Philly

This column usually tackles national LGBT issues, like why the Log Cabin Republicans and their counterpart, GOProud, have no real clout in the Republican Party, how historians try to keep LGBTs in the closet or why Ken Mehlman thinks he can buy his way back into good graces with the community. But this week’s column is one of congratulations to Human Rights Campaign, which this week issued a scorecard of municipalities on LGBT issues. It’s more a local-based column since we’re going to boast, as we have in the past, that Philadelphia is the nation’s most gay-friendly city — better than New York City, better than Los Angeles, better than D.C. and, yes, better than even San Francisco. There is one problem that we’ll touch on later in the column.

First, let’s give it up for HRC, as this was a herculean task that produced an excellent index with real criteria that must be taken seriously by anyone involved with equality work. Politics is local. Therefore, let’s really give a hand to the people of Philadelphia, especially members of the LGBT community, who have understood how to win friends and influence a city. What Philly has done is provide a lesson in equality other cities can emulate. But it’s not an easy study; it took us about 40 years.

Of 137 cities researched, only we got a score of 100 on the base issues, which focused on how the community is protected in laws and how the city government interacts with the community. This is a good start but, in future studies, HRC should also look at living conditions of the LGBT community. After all, since 1969, we have worked to create community where there was none.

And that is where Philly excels, and most of the other cities fail. We have our own ghetto called the Gayborhood, but we are not isolated in it. We work with the community at large. There is not an industry in Philly where the LGBT community is not in a leadership position. You name it, we are there — out and proud. We embrace diversity in and out of our community. We have churches, synagogues, sports teams, health centers, youth centers, community centers and, soon, an affordable senior LGBT-friendly apartment building. Philly even has the nation’s largest trans-health conference. And let’s not forget we set the national tourism market ablaze with our “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay” campaign. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning PGN, the most awarded newspaper in the national LGBT community. Now to that slight problem. When it came to bonus points, our good friends in Seattle got a few extras. Those issues are in the process of being taken up by the city, and legislation was introduced this week that would allow the city to far-exceed any other in legal protections for LGBT people. Expect that by next year’s survey, any areas where Philadelphia missed opportunities will be corrected.

At the same time, a question needs to be added to the report: How much investment does your city make in the LGBT community? We deserve our tax dollars helping our community like any other. In that regard, Philly also will be tops.

Philly is a city of many firsts — from its 1960s marches on Independence Hall to having the first active and fully service-minded LGBT community in the nation.

Well done, HRC, and well done, Philly!

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].