LGBTQ leaders in Pa. endorse Josh Shapiro and Austin Davis

Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaking at the William Way LGBT Community Center on March 3.

A coalition of Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ leaders have signed on to endorse Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor and State Rep. Austin Davis for lieutenant governor. The endorsement, which currently includes 45 leaders from municipalities across the Commonwealth, was announced at a March 3 event at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, with Shapiro and Davis in attendance.

Shapiro is running uncontested in the gubernatorial primary, while Davis is running against State Rep. Brian Sims and Montgomery County banker Ray Sosa.

Shapiro has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ communities; he fought to get nondiscrimination laws passed in Montgomery County, and if elected governor, has committed to pass bills banning LGBTQ discrimination and expanding hate crime laws. Davis too has pushed to protect LGBTQ rights in Pennsylvania as a co-sponsor of the Fairness Act and expanded hate crimes legislation. He represents Pennsylvania’s 35th District in Allegheny County, which encompasses his hometown of McKeesport, chairs the Allegheny County House Democratic Delegation, and serves as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. 

“I am humbled and grateful to have the support of so many LGBTQ+ community leaders from all across our Commonwealth — and I am ready to continue fighting for them as Pennsylvania’s next Lieutenant Governor,” Davis said. “Every Pennsylvanians’ rights should be protected under the law, and in Harrisburg, I have worked to protect LGBTQ+ rights and advance equality. Alongside this impressive group of LGBTQ+ leaders and activists, a Shapiro-Davis administration will continue that work to ensure that LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians are protected, supported, and have a seat at the table as we build our Commonwealth’s future.” 

Tyrell Brown, preschool teacher and community leader, contextualized his endorsement of Davis in terms of the need to prevent legislation like the “Don’t Say Gay” bills that are being passed in Florida. 

“One of the things we’re witnessing in Orlando is the Republican infrastructure in their government is fighting against LGBTQ rights, our history to be spoken loudly in our classrooms and for our youth to be protected in those classrooms,” Brown told PGN. “As a result, we can’t afford in Pennsylvania to have these protections lifted or even dented in any way shape or form, so we need a unified Democratic ticket. I am going to support Austin Davis because he is the strongest candidate to win this job because it is a position of a legislator and a bridge-builder, not as a flame-thrower.” 

Brown was previously running to represent Philadelphia’s 182nd district in the Pa. House race, but he suspended his campaign earlier this year.

“I don’t think that, given a lot of the things that are dangerously happening on the streets to LGBTQ+, particularly QTBIPOC and Black trans women in Philadelphia, that we can afford to lose their lives to policy,” Brown added. 

LGBTQ leader and trans activist Kendall Stephens said at the event that she supports Shapiro and Davis “because as a Black person, and a transgender person, with a long lived history of unemployment, housing and food insecurity, and overall poverty, my life stands precariously in the balance and within the margins of society. I am not the only one. Hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians struggle with similar challenges and issues. I know these men care very deeply about those countless, but not nameless, people across the Commonwealth who are suffocating under the weight of their adversities.”

Kendall Stephens speaking in support of Josh Shapiro and Austin Davis.

Stephens continued, saying “Try not to look at these men as just politicians, because if you do, then votes become relegated to issues of blue versus red, Black versus white, the have and the have-nots, us versus them. So I implore you to think of these men as your neighbors, the block captains of every street and every neighborhood situated within every municipality within our Commonwealth, who will fight for the most vulnerable among us. These men have an extensive track record of doing so. The LGBTQ+ community are also your neighbors. It is high time we end the divisiveness, the vitriol, the apathy, and the intercommunity and intercultural wars we wage against each other, and vote for civility, vote for these two human rights defenders, our neighbors, our block captains, our next Governor and Lt. Governor.”

Dr. Tyler Titus, Erie School Board President, spoke about the lack of safe housing, employment, healthcare, education for many in the LGBTQ community.

“We are fighting to merely exist in some communities, this Commonwealth is not immune. And our community continues to be under attack, and our basic protections such as access to safe housing, employment, healthcare, education, are not up there, they are not there for us to be secure. I know that when we talk about this, we get fired up and we get passionate. That is why I’m here right now, that’s why I got in my car and drove down from Erie this morning so I can stand here and reiterate that point, because we deserve so much more than what this Commonwealth has given us,” Titus said. “I know that we need and we deserve Attorney General Josh Shapiro to be our next Governor.”

Dena Stanely, a Black trans activist and businesswoman from Pittsburgh, said that Shapiro and Davis will help pass nondiscrimination laws and keep LGBTQ people safe.

“They aim to eliminate the gay trans panic defense in PA, and to ban conversion therapy for minors,” Stanley said. “This is a good step in the right direction. As a Black trans Pennsylvanian, I’ll work with elected officials and hold them accountable for bringing equity to our communities. After doing my research, my support was clear, Davis and Shapiro, they’re the clear ones that need to win. Absolutely. They stand up for trans rights, setting the bar as politicians, for all people, and creating an equitable future for Pennsylvanians. I trust and will hold this administration accountable.”

At the event, Shapiro said he was honored to have the support of LGBTQ+ leaders, and he pledged to work across party lines to pass the Fairness Act, and to ultimately sign the bill into law in the William Way Community Center.

“It’s going to take the next governor of this Commonwealth to actually give a damn, to actually believe in their heart of hearts that this is not just a bill worthy of signing, but the right and just thing to do,” Shapiro said. “I have always believed that. And god willing, with all of your help, Austin Davis and I will be in a position to build that bridge, and take that bridge right here to this hall and sign a bill ending legalized discrimination in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania once and for all.”

Among the coalition of LGBTQ leaders who are endorsing Shapiro and Davis are Abington Township Commissioner Lori Schreiber; Micah Mahjoubian (Philadelphia); Former Philadelphia Human Relations Commission Executive Director Rue Landau; Stonewall pioneer Mark Segal (Segal is also the publisher of Philadelphia Gay News); Milford Borough Mayor Sean Strub; LGBTQ journalists Michael Mahler (Erie) and Jeff Freedman (Pittsburgh); and founder of Schuylkill County Stonewall Democrats Dr. Maria Sanelli. Also this week, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, a LGBTQ+ political organization based in Pittsburgh, endorsed both Shapiro and Davis at their 2022 endorsement meeting.

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