Landau to leave Phila. Commission on Human Relations

Photo credit: Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

Praise is pouring in for Rue Landau, the outgoing executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Landau is leaving her position, effective Dec. 18.  She will be replaced on an interim basis by Randy Duque while a search ensues for Landau’s permanent replacement. Duque currently serves as PCHR’s deputy director.

“I’ve seen a number of [PCHR] directors over the past 45 years, and Rue is far and ahead of all of them in addressing real concerns with real solutions,” said David R. Fair, a longtime activist. “She’s helped assure the rights of people with criminal records, assured that tenants are protected from unfair evictions, and took the lead in helping our own community finally confront the racism and discrimination in our [LGBT] movement. Her departure from the [PCHR] is a major loss for the city and she leaves big shoes to fill.”

Celena Morrison, executive director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was honored to work with Landau. “It has been an honor working with a wonderful colleague like Rue these past years,” Morrison said. “I served with her on the PCHR and then worked with Rue in my new capacity as executive Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs. And I have yet to meet another individual with the ability to make this work look so effortless. She has done great things during her tenure. And I am grateful for her help, kindness, integrity, and passion. Rue is an amazing person. And as sad as I am to see her go, I am excited for her next chapter.”

State Sen. Sharif T. Street (D-Philadelphia) said he’s a longtime friend of Landau. “I want to thank Rue for her incredible work at the PCHR and her tireless efforts to bring people together and fight for the rights of all of us,” Street told PGN. “I’ve been lucky to know Rue since I was in law school and to call her a friend. I wish her well in the next chapter of her life and know that whatever she chooses to do next, it will be in the service of others.”

Stephen A. Glassman, former chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said he’s worked closely with Landau. “Rue and I worked closely together as openly LGBTQ political appointees on a number of issues during the latter years of my time as the chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission,” Glassman told PGN. “She has been a beacon of thoughtful guidance and broad community leadership during her tenure as the executive director of the PCHR and has inspired many who have been the victims of discrimination through her tireless work as the head of this important agency.”

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Supervising Judge Dan Anders lauded Landau’s commitment to social justice. “Rue Landau has devoted her entire legal career to social justice and improving the lives of Philadelphians,” Anders said. “For the last 12 years, she has worked to strengthen the social fabric — especially for marginalized communities — by adding civil rights protections (such as wage equity and fair chance hiring for persons with criminal convictions), increased enforcement of unfair rental practices, and leading courageous discussions on racism and other forms of discrimination. Our City’s loss of her as a public servant is Temple University’s gain — especially for the law students who will train and learn from a fierce advocate.  I look forward to seeing how Rue continues her remarkable legal career.”

Landau was the first out lesbian to lead the PCHR, which investigates antibias complaints in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodataions. She also led the Fair Housing Commission, which addresses unfair and unsafe rental practices. Her annual salary was $118,450, according to city records.

Landau said her tenure at PCHR was personally rewarding. “As a member of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, my work at the PCHR and FHC held special personal meaning,” Landau said, in an email. “I knew that the issues I worked on could directly impact my friends, colleagues, and even my own family. From strengthening the local laws that protect us from discrimination and acts of hate, to elevating and addressing issues of racism and discrimination, I worked hard to help make Philadelphia a safe haven for all members of the LGBTQ community—particularly by helping to lift the strong voices of Black and Brown community members who have felt silenced and invisible for too long.”  

Landau added: “Outside of my local work, one highlight was to bring leaders of civil rights agencies from around the country to Philadelphia for a deep dive into LGBTQ history, law, social justice, and religious issues. Many of the participants from small towns said the conference was an incredible and life-changing experience. They took the knowledge and empathy they gained in Philly home with them, leading to better and safer lives for LGBTQ community members around the country.” 

Landau will join the faculty at Temple University Beasley School of Law for the spring semester teaching housing law.

“Rue Landau is among the fiercest advocates for civil rights and issues of social justice that I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my decades in city government,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, in a statement. “In her dual roles as executive director of both the PCHR and the FHC, she has helped shape and enforce some of our city’s most consequential anti-discrimination laws. Rue’s passion for her work is ever-present and will be missed by her colleagues in the Administration, on City Council, and at partner organizations outside of government. I wish her well in the next phase of her career, and look forward to working with long-time deputy Randy Duque in his role as acting executive director.”

According to a city press release, Landau overhauled and expanded the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance and Fair Housing Ordinance to add civil rights protections including wage equity, fair-chance hiring for people with criminal records, and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Additionally, she strengthened protections for the LGBTQ community, along with renters and persons victimized by hate crimes. 

“I and all the commissioners thank Rue for her years of services to the people of Philadelphia,” said Shalimar Thomas, PCHR Chair, in a statement. “Under her leadership, the PCHR and FHC have played a critical role in preventing and remedying unlawful discrimination against Philadelphia residents in employment, public accommodations, housing, and more. We look forward to working with [Duque] in his new capacity and will help to ensure a smooth transition for the next executive director once that person has been selected.”

Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, spoke of Landau in glowing terms. “Rue has been a champion for civil and human rights and has contributed to improving our democracy through her expertise and tireless social justice work ethic to bring us all into that ‘more perfect union,'” Lassiter said. “Temple University is getting a jewel and I salute my dear colleague on her next social justice endeavor.”

Asa Khalif, a local activist and community organizer, echoed similar sentiments. “Rue Landau is truly one of Philadelphia’s treasures,” Khalif told PGN. “The professionalism, integrity, and passion that Rue brought to the Phila Commission on Human Relations and Fair Housing Commission is priceless. Many thanks for her service.”

Mark M. Seaman, a gay man who fought against anti-LGBT bias in the taxicab industry, also commended Landau. “Those most impacted by discrimination need advocates who have experienced those challenges in positions of power and to lead with empathy,” Seaman told PGN. “I wish Rue the very best and am pleased she was at the helm of PCHR during the many years we fought LGBTQ+ discrimination in Philadelphia’s taxicab industry.”

Business owner Michael Weiss also thanked Landau for her service. “I thank her on behalf of her community for doing such a good job for such a long tenure,” Weiss said, in an email. “I also wish her luck in whatever comes next in her life. Her example shows that members of the LGBTQ community serve not only the citizens of Philadelphia well, but all American cities. And that we care about our communities as a whole.”

Landau is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Equal Justice Award from Community Legal Services (2020), the Cheryl Ingram Advocate for Justice Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Division (2019), the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award on behalf of the PCHR (2016), the Building Bridges, Opening Doors Award from HIAS PA (2010), and “Lawyer on the Fast Track” by The Legal Intelligencer (2006).

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.