News Briefing: Sept. 11-17, 2015

Word on SEPTA appeal pending

Information on whether the city will appeal a Commonwealth Court ruling exempting SEPTA from the city’s antibias rules remained pending this week.

The Aug. 7 ruling was blasted by LGBT advocates, who note that SEPTA’s LGBT riders and employees would be negatively impacted if SEPTA doesn’t have to comply with local antibias rules.

SEPTA has about 9,000 workers and about one million riders daily. The transit system serves Philadelphia and four nearby counties.

The city had until Sept. 8 to file a “petition for allowance of appeal” with the state Supreme Court.

Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for the Nutter administration, couldn’t be reached for comment and Jerri Williams, a SEPTA spokesperson, declined to comment.

Court declines to reconsider ruling in Milano case

On Sept. 3, the state Supreme Court rejected the request of Richard R. Laird to file a petition for reconsideration in the Anthony Milano murder case.

In 1987, Laird and Frank R. Chester escorted Milano out of a Bucks County tavern and kidnapped him to a wooded area, where his throat was hacked out with a box cutter.

Milano was gay, and prosecutors called it an antigay hate crime.

A Bucks County jury convicted both men of first-degree murder and sentenced them to death. Laird received a second trial in 2007, due to faulty jury instructions by the trial judge. 

The second jury re-sentenced Laird to death. But Laird claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his second trial.

In 2013, a Bucks County judge rejected Laird’s request for a third trial and the state Supreme Court upheld that rejection.

But Laird asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider its rejection, which the court declined to do on Sept. 3 — effectively halting Laird’s appeals in state court.

Laird, 51, remains on death row at a state prison in Franklin Township.

Chester, 46, remains on death row at a state prison in Graterford. His first-degree murder conviction also was overturned, and prosecutors must decide whether to re-try him.

— Timothy Cwiek

Demonstration targets conversion therapy

Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia is organizing a peaceful demonstration to speak out against the inclusion of people with ties to conversion therapy at this month’s World Meeting of Families.

The demonstration will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Sister Cities Park, 18th and Race streets, across from the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

The event will call attention to the involvement of people who have backed conversion therapy — the practice of trying to change one’s sexual orientation — at the international Catholic conference being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-25. PGN reported last month that at least eight presenters have personally advocated for the practice, or have ties to organizations that have backed conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy has been condemned by every major medical and psychological association.

For more information about the demonstration, contact the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan-Pickett at 215-873-5719 or [email protected]

— Jen Colletta

Food-bank fundraiser

Philadelphians are invited to eat and drink for a good cause at a fundraiser for the Mazzoni Center Food Bank.

“Meals for Mazzoni” takes place from 2-5 p.m. Sept. 13 at Tabu, 200 S. 12th St.

Tickets cost $20 for food and an open bar for one hour starting at 2 p.m. It costs $6 after 3 p.m. and includes one free drink.

Crystal Fox, the executive chef of Giorgio on Pine, will prepare a selection of appetizers. DJ Chris Urban will perform along with dancers.

All proceeds will support the Mazzoni Center Food Bank, which served about 1,500 individuals and 1,300 families last year. The food bank also provided over 10,000 bags of groceries to people who needed supplemental nutrition as part of a health program.

The Mazzoni Center Food Bank caters to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Philadelphia region who need a balanced diet to support a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, search “Meals for Mazzoni” on Facebook, or visit

Forum looks beyond marriage

Members of the LGBT community have a lot on their minds in addition to marriage.

To explore some of those topics, there will be a free forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at the WHYY-FM studios in Independence Mall West, 150 N. Sixth St. Doors open at 6 p.m.

The radio station is hosting the event alongside the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

Topics of discussion include nondiscrimination and hate-crime laws, transgender inclusion, youth homelessness and religion. People are invited to share their personal stories and discuss priorities.

Guest speakers will attend with perspectives on law, social justice, health care, business and politics.

Attendees are asked to register at

For more information, contact Emily Gann with WHYY at 215-351-1689 or [email protected]

Survey looks at aging issues

People who are 65 and over are invited to participate in a survey to help make Philadelphia a more age-friendly city.

Mayor Michael Nutter, the Mayor’s Commission on Aging and AARP Pennsylvania released the citywide survey, which can be completed through the end of September at any Free Library location or online at

“We know that different communities have different needs,” Nutter said in a statement, noting that the survey would help officials better understand the needs of different senior communities in the city and how to support them.

More than 12 percent of Philadelphia’s 1.5 million residents are 65 or older, according to the 2010 census.

— Paige Cooperstein