News briefing Dec. 12-18, 2014


Sixers to host LGBT night

The Philadelphia 76ers will host its third Pride Night this weekend.

The team will welcome LGBTs and allies to its game versus the Grizzlies, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Wells Fargo Center. Proceeds from a 50/50 raffle at the game will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. Also that night, ACLU communication specialist Ben Bowens will be honored as a “Hero Among Us.”

The Sixers last staged an LGBT night in 2010, and before that in 2006. To buy tickets for seats in the community section, use promo code PRIDE at checkout:

— Jen Colletta


Event to memorialize homeless

Join hundreds of fellow Philadelphians to remember those homeless and formerly homeless who died in 2014 and to call for an end to homelessness.

The 2014 Homeless Memorial Day will take place 5 p.m. Dec. 18 at Dilworth Park, 15th and Market streets. It is hosted by Homeless Memorial Philly.

The group asserts that there are many factors that contribute to homelessness, including lack of affordable housing, inadequate education and economic opportunity and lack of access to quality health care. Homeless people are also often discriminated against in the form of dehumanizing attitudes, laws criminalizing homelessness and even acts of violence. However, an important step in addressing homelessness is to assert the fundamental dignity of all persons who are in situations of homelessness and poverty.

For more information, contact Will O’Brien at 215-232-7272 ext. 3047 or [email protected]

— Ryan Kasley


Settlement conference scheduled in cop case

A settlement conference was slated to take place this week in the case of N. Melville Jones, an openly gay Philadelphia police officer who alleges pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias.

The conference was set for 3 p.m. Dec. 12 in Room 622 of City Hall.

“The settlement conference typically involves an official from the court discussing the case and reasoning with the sides to encourage a settlement,” said Barak A. Kassutto, an attorney for Jones. “I can’t go into more details at this time.”

Jones filed suit last year, alleging extensive harassment and hostile working conditions due to his sexual orientation. 

He also claims that a supervisor outed him throughout the police department after seeing him leave a gay bar in Washington, D.C.

Jones is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, according to court records.

Local transwoman to challenge constitutionality of GID exclusion

Transgender woman Kate L. Blatt plans to challenge the constitutionality of Congress excluding gender-identity disorder as a protected disability when enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1989.

The ADA protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, transportation and other venues.

Blatt is suing her former employer, Cabela’s Inc., alleging discrimination on the basis of her sex and disability. Blatt, 33, says she suffered from GID while working at Cabela’s in Hamburg, Pa.

She says Cabela’s banned her from a female restroom, thus denying her a reasonable accommodation for her disability. But Cabela’s argues that since GID isn’t covered by the ADA, Blatt couldn’t have been discriminated against because of a disability.

In a Nov. 26 filing, Blatt notified the court she plans to challenge the constitutionality of excluding GID from the ADA.

On Dec. 1, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl gave Blatt until Jan. 5 to file her constitutional challenge.

Schmehl also said Blatt could file a 45-page brief, rather than a standard 25-page brief.

Schedule issued in Morris case

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court has issued a scheduling order in PGN’s open-records request for complete dispatch records pertaining to the Nizah Morris case.

PGN filed suit in October, seeking complete dispatch records from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for a vehicle stop initiated by Officer Elizabeth Skala.

Shortly before her Dec. 22, 2002, vehicle stop, Skala gave Morris a Center City “courtesy ride.”

Shortly after the ride, the transgender woman was found by passing motorists with a fatal head wound.

It remains unclear why Skala embarked on the unrelated vehicle stop. At the time, she was still assigned to handle Morris, who was extremely inebriated.

According to a scheduling order, PGN’s brief is due by March 2 and the D.A.’s brief is due by April 6.

Oral arguments are expected to be held some time after May 4.

The Morris homicide remains unsolved, and advocates seek a state probe. But so far, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane hasn’t agreed to review the matter.

— Timothy Cwiek