Liberty City condemns Union League’s award to Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. "Ron DeSantis" by Gage Skidmore is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

On October 13 the Union League of Philadelphia plans to bestow upon Florida Governor Ron DeSantis its Gold Medal Award, which it gives to those it feels best exemplify its values of freedom and free enterprise.

Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club issued a statement September 30 which strongly opposes the award to DeSantis, saying that the Florida governor “is a scourge on the LGBTQ+ community.”

Gov. DeSantis, a Republican, is known for his severely conservative views, and has gained national notoriety for the anti-progressive laws and policies he has enacted in his state. Among his most well-known actions was passing a “Don’t Say Gay” law targeting Florida’s schools. Most recently, DeSantis made news by using Florida tax monies to fund a scheme to relocate migrants from Texas and unceremoniously dump them on the residents of Martha’s Vineyard — an act which has opened DeSantis up to possible criminal charges of violating federal trafficking laws.

Liberty City Board Co-Chair Tariem Burroughs was incredulous when he first heard the news of the League’s decision at the LCDC general meeting on Sept. 29. “At first we couldn’t take it seriously. It sounded like an Onion headline,” he said, referring to the popular satirical publication. “But we immediately checked to confirm it, and it was real.”

LCDC sprang into action immediately to craft the group’s response to the Union League’s decision and send their statement out to their membership the next day. “DeSantis does not reflect the values of Philadelphia,” Burroughs continued. “We wanted to make sure the Union League knows that giving DeSantis this award will be destructive to our community.”

The statement also brings up DeSantis’ support of Pa. gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who opposes marriage equality and who was at the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 insurrection.

Liberty City members are not the only ones unhappy with the DeSantis award. The membership of the Union League itself has expressed its displeasure in no uncertain terms. Prominent local attorney Thomas McGill, partner in the Philadelphia firm Kenny, Burns and McGill, is on record calling the UL’s decision “reprehensible.”

A meeting between the UL membership and administration was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30, to discuss concerns over the matter. At presstime, the results of that meeting have not been made public.

The Union League has not responded to requests from PGN for comment.

Liberty City will not not be sitting idle as the award date approaches. The group will be looking to mobilize the community to craft an appropriate response. “We are checking in with other groups to possibly collaborate on further actions,” said Burroughs. The organization will also be reaching out to the Union League to ascertain how this decision was reached, and why. “It’s important to get the facts of the matter,” said Burroughs. “It’s important to know that, whatever we do, we’re reacting to facts and not unfounded rumor.” So far, the Union League has not responded to Liberty City’s outreach, either.

It is not known at this point whether DeSantis will be showing up to personally accept his award; the aftermath of Hurricane Ian may keep him in Florida for the time being. “But if DeSantis does show up,” Burroughs said, “we want to be front and center at the Union League, to make sure they know how their action damages our community.”