Community Briefs: New leadership in LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus

Pennsylvania House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus logo

The Pennsylvania House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus recently changed over its leadership; state Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Jessica Benham, who represent Philadelphia and Allegheny, respectively, are the new leaders of the caucus. Both Kenyatta and Benham are out members of the LGBTQ community. 

Pa. Rep. Dan Frankel and Sen. Katie Muth previously chaired the LGBTQ Caucus. Frankel, who formed the caucus 11 years ago, told CBS Philadelphia that he thinks it’s time for new leadership. Frankel has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights.

“Representative Frankel has been invaluable in the ongoing fight to make Pennsylvania a fairer place for all, and I know that the LGBTQ+ community continues to have a fierce ally in Senator Muth in our fight for equal rights under the law,” Kenyatta said in a press release on the Pa. LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus website. “To that end I’m thrilled to work with Representative Benham, a trailblazer and champion, as the next co-chairs of the Equality Caucus.” 

The caucus now has five out LGBTQ members, including members from Philly, its suburbs, and Allegheny County. 

“I’m honored to serve as co-chair with Representative Kenyatta for the 2023-2024 legislative session,” Benham said in the press release. “Knowing that we will be joined by even more out members of the LGBTQ+ community in the House, I’m confident that this session will result in continued progress toward justice and look forward to fighting for much-needed change.”

Both Frankel and Muth called Kenyatta and Benham trailblazers for their work as state legislators. 

“In their short time in office, they have both distinguished themselves as tough, determined and very smart,” Muth said in the release. “I’m excited to see those gifts on display in leadership roles.” 

Galaei to hold January fundraiser to boost programs and resources

Galaei, North Philly’s QTBIPOC radical social justice organization, will hold the Love, Light and Liberation fundraiser at Frankey Bradley’s on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. Funds will directly support the organization’s life skills programming, provision of free community resources, and outreach initiatives. Resources will also be provided at the event.

“We are all deserving and need a space to celebrate ourselves and each other,” said Hazel Edwards, manager of galaei’s TINGS (Trans, Intersex, Non Binary and Gender Nonconforming services) Program. “Bell Hooks said, ‘The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.’ Love, Light and Liberation is a celebration in vain with this mission. We should all work towards loving each other and supporting each other’s existence and work. Without one another, there is no collective liberation.”

Hosted by Edwards’ drag persona Luna Thee Jawnette, the show will feature performances by galaei TINGS Coordinator Icon Ebony Fierce, Savvy, Sydney Gorgeous, Cupid Bowe, Little Piece, Zsa Zsa, Henlo Bullfrog, Esme Eventide, Connie Rotten and Quinn Possible. 

For tickets and more info, visit the Love, Light and Liberation Eventbrite page.

Reggie Shuford steps down as executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania 

After over 11 years as executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and 15 years working as staff attorney at the national ACLU, Reggie Shuford recently left the role. In mid February he will start a job as executive director of the NC Justice Center, one of North Carolina’s progressive nonprofits dedicated to fighting for economic justice. 

“The Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania expresses our deepest appreciation for Reggie Shuford’s dedication to our organization and for his work over more than a decade as our Executive Director,” the ACLU of PA board resolution reads. “The Board wishes him the best of luck in his new position, as he returns ‘home’ to North Carolina to attack the entrenched challenges of racism and poverty in that state.”

According to the resolution, during Shuford’s time leading the ACLU, the organization’s legal department successfully had Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law overturned; thwarted the destructive and unconstitutional proposed “Marsy’s Law” amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution; and successfully challenged Pennsylvania’s outlawing of same-sex marriage well before it became widespread law. 

Also under Shuford’s leadership, the ACLU’s legal department filed 10 certiorari petitions, or a summons in which a higher court reviews a lower court’s decision, with the U.S. Supreme Court; and filed and took part in hundreds of cases at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

The resolution goes on to say that Shuford improved the organization by creating the Advocacy & Policy Department and a trans rights program, boosted the org’s decarceration and bail reform work, cultivated experimental electoral work that focused on the issues while preserving nonpartisanship on political candidates, and bolstered the organization’s voter protection efforts.  

On a larger scale, Shuford took measures to ameliorate the culture of the ACLU of PA by making sure the staff was diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. He also hired previously incarcerated people to help the organization with criminal law reform work. Shuford also took part in establishing a first-time Language Access Policy.