LGBTQ leaders and allies speak out against Doug Mastriano

Joanna Stone speaking in front of the William Way Community Center.

LGBTQ leaders in Pennsylvania spoke out against Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at a June 6 press conference, specifically highlighting how the state senator’s anti-LGBTQ policies would impact famlies and young people. The event took place in front of the “Pride and Progress” mural at the William Way LGBT Community Center.

“Doug Mastriano has proven that he is completely unfit for that office,” said Ted Bordelon, board member of Liberty City LGBTQ+ Democratic Club. “He believes homosexuality is ‘aberrant sexual conduct’ and opposes LGBTQ+ couples from adopting. He believes protecting gender identity from discrimination is ‘madness.’ And at his core, he believes LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians don’t deserve the same protections or freedoms as the rest of the state. We cannot let him win and take us backwards. That’s why if you’re an LGBTQ+ person in Philadelphia, or an ally, you need to get involved now and start paying attention. And most importantly, get out and vote in November.”

Joanna Stone, a teacher from Lower Merion with two elementary age children, spoke about how a potential Mastriano administration would be devastating for families with LGBTQ youth.

“Senator Mastriano has said that he believes gender identity is made up, and that it would be madness to protect trans people from discrimination. If he is allowed to use the power of the governor’s office to turn that belief into policy, he’ll be able to take away affirming health care, mental health care, and more of the support that study after study shows is essential, for kids like mine, to make it to adulthood. We’ve seen efforts in other states to criminalize parents seeking care for their children. And if he’s elected, we’ll see those efforts come here too. Isn’t that every parent’s worst nightmare, to be unable to do our most basic job: caring for our kids?”

Stone, who represented the Gender Awareness and Inclusion Network (GAIN), a Main Line based organization, said that stakes in the election are too important for people to stay silent.

“I’m not someone who ever thought they’d be speaking at a press conference, especially about something so personal to my family. But the stakes are simply too high for any of us to stand on the sidelines and hope someone else will make things okay.”

In addition to Mastriano’s anti-LGBTQ positions, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta brought up the nominee’s participation in the January 6 attempted coup against the U.S. government. 

“I’m not sure what Doug Mastriano has ever accomplished in his career, other than ordering some buses to go down to the insurrection,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta also stressed the severity of November’s general election for governor, where Mastriano will run against Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro.

“We have a really clear, serious, stark choice. We can have a governor in Doug Mastriano, who is going to spend his time in office, not trying to reduce the amount of suicides among young people, but actually increasing them with his rhetoric and with his proposed policies. Or we can have somebody in Josh Shapiro, who we know is going to do everything he can to protect those young people, not just in their youth, but as they grow up throughout their lives, so that their possibilities aren’t limited by who they are.”

The Trevor Project’s recent National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health revealed that LGBTQ youth who reported low support from their families and communities had higher rates of suicide attempts than those with more support.

Michael Galvan speaking at the press conference.

Michael Galvan, a community organizer, youth policy advocate, and LGBTQ+ mentor who moved Philadelphia from Texas a decade ago, spoke about how such support is vital to LGBTQ youth, and how Mastriano becoming governor would jeopardize the city’s safe and affirming community.

“If it were up to Doug Mastriano, myself, my husband, and thousands of LGBTQ+ people would not be able to allowed to marry, would not be allowed to start a family, and would face discrimination based purely on who they love in their day to day lives. If it were up to Doug Mastriano, the gay, trans, gender nonconforming teams that I serve every day would not ever exist in society that would love and accept their journey,” Galvan said.

“My message to Doug Mastriano today is this: our community has stood up to bullies many times in our past before. While your voice may be able to reach farther than the bullies of our past, love will conquer hate. It’s time for all of us to come together to stop this man at the ballot box in November. And it’s time for us to defend our freedoms from people who would gladly strip them away in a heartbeat as if they never existed.”

PGN Publisher Mark Segal recalled his decades of work with Pennsylvania governors to further LGBTQ visiblity and equality. Segal spoke about how when he first started working with people in Harrisburg, aversion therapy was legal in the state and practiced at hospitals, and he said that Mastriano’s use of words like “abhorrent,” “deviant,” and “abnormal” to refer to LGBTQ people harken back to those times.

“I heard those words in 1975, and that is what worries our community,” Segal said. “If you’re an LGBT parent, an LGBT youth, in the state police or employed by state, or even if you get health services, Doug Mastriano is a threat. With Doug Mastriano, even your marriage isn’t safe.”