U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), along with local LGBT leaders, addressed the landscape for LGBT rights under the new presidential administration during a local roundtable event last weekend.
The event, held Jan. 29 at Square One Café, allowed members of the LGBT community to share their stories, giving both senators a sense of the scope of what the community needs from the federal government.
Deja Alvarez, director of The Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center, asked for more communication on federal funding opportunities.
Alvarez said her organization is privately funded and has been fighting for federal funding but hasn’t yet been able to secure it. She noted that 97 percent of the center’s client are people of color, about 65 percent of whom are transgender women.
She added that the senators’ outreach at the roundtable could bring hope to LGBT organizations and the community as a whole, in the wake of the Trump administration’s takeover.
“So many feel defeated,” she said. “They feel like they don’t have a chance to do anything, so they don’t even bother but if they have a chance to hear this information, [and] feel the passion that is around this room right now, more of them will get involved.”
Booker talked about the intersectionality of progressive issues, and cautioned activists who draw a line among such causes.
“Every issue we’ve talked about is interwoven and if you say you’re an activist for women’s rights, you’ve got to be activist for LGBTQ rights. If you say you’re an activist against racism, you’ve got to be an activist for LGBTQ rights,” he said. “These are not Democratic or Republican issues.”
Booker encouraged the crowd to use outlets like social media to get involved in progressive actions, urging them to share calls to action such as voting information.
“I’m not up until 2020 but my fear is we are now in a new election cycle and in 18 months from now, we have 25 Democrats in the Senate that are defending seats; 10 or 12 of them are in the states that Donald Trump won. All [Republicans] need to do is pick up eight seats and then it is over,” Booker said, citing that such a majority would make it nearly impossible to block restrictive legislation.
Booker offered up three specific action items for supporters: donate to grassroots organizations, utilize social-media platforms and take part in direct actions such as volunteering or protesting.
“I would not be sitting here if it weren’t for the strident activism in America,” Booker added.
Casey told PGN that he’s seen an influx in individuals interested in running for political office after the presidential election.
“We’re at a time now where people of all ages are engaging and active and one of the ways to validate your commitment to that sense of action is to run for office,” he said. “We’re seeing a kind of engagement that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Pennsylvania Youth Congress Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman noted he was pleased to hear that LGBT youth issues on are the senators’ agenda.
“Senators Booker and Casey are aware of the issues that are affecting LGBT youth and they care deeply about fighting for the dignity and respect that all young people need throughout our states,” he said.
Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin told PGN that he was happy with the roundtable event but also stressed the importance of the work that needs to be done.
“The passion here is important and I think what both senators said is unifying people and that’s really an important part,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do and I think this is going to be a brutal couple of years. We’re going to have to stick together.”