Mayor’s Office reflects on LGBTQ advancements and hopes for the next administration

Mayor Kenney speaking at the Pride flag raising at City Hall in 2017.
Mayor Kenney speaking at the Pride flag raising at City Hall in 2017.

In a written statement to PGN, Mayor Jim Kenney reflected on his work with the LGBTQ community.

“Over the last seven years and now going into my final year as mayor, I have worked hard to build a city that embraces all people and communities — one that knows and values inclusion and acceptance.”

The work his administration did, Kenney noted, included establishing the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, expanding protections for trans and non-binary Philadelphians, strengthening the Fair Practices Ordinance, making gender-inclusive bathrooms accessible in all public buildings, and establishing a leadership pipeline initiative to prepare LGBTQ community members for nonprofit board service.

“These accomplishments are significant, and we are proud of them,” Kenney added. “But we know that more work is to be done.”

Kenney spoke on his wishes for what he thinks the next mayor should do for the LGBTQ community.

“In recent years, we have seen a very concerning rise in violence against our LGBTQ+ community and specifically anti-trans violence that has resulted in the tragic loss of far too many lives — not just in Philadelphia, but nationwide,” Kenney said. “It is unacceptable and we must continue to address it head-on. It is my hope that the next administration builds on our efforts to ensure that city agencies are well-resourced to tackle hate and bias wherever it exists. We need them to remain committed to strengthening existing partnerships with our community partners who play a critical role in getting victims, their families, and the larger LGBT community the support they need and deserve. Lastly, the next administration must continue putting forth the necessary efforts to ensure that Philadelphia is a safe, welcoming and affirming city for all.”

Erik Larson, the city’s Deputy Director of LGBT Affairs, had similar views about the increase in violence against the trans community.

“[In one week], I personally went from attending the funeral of one community member to responding to the murder of another,” Larson said. “I will say very clearly that this is an epidemic. It’s an emergency and it needs to be treated seriously as such.”

Larson added that he would like the next mayor to help “build the infrastructure across government to ensure that these communities are getting the support they need.” This includes providing victims necessary services to ensure they are being treated with respect when interacting with government staff.

Overall, Larson said he wants the next mayor to focus on centering the concerns of marginalized communities across the city.

“I think taking care of the most vulnerable in any society or any city is really at the core of what’s best for the whole of the community,” Larson said. “When our most vulnerable are cared for and taken care of, then that ensures that the rest of us have the opportunities to succeed as well. I’d really like to see a future mayor make sure that that is at the center of their focus and make sure that our communities are well-resourced to succeed.”

Larson also suggested the next mayor should increase efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion, something he said Kenney had a “vested interest” in.

“I think that DE&I work is important and I’m glad that it’s happening, but I do think that there needs to be the opportunity for these folks [to make sure] they have the teams and the resources they need to actually deliver on some changes.”

Jason Culler, who has served on the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs since mid-2022, spoke to PGN about the five areas he would like the next mayor to work on and expand upon. First, Culler said he’d like the new mayor to encourage competency trainings at local bars for all staff and security. He noted how a bouncer at Gayborhood bar Tabu allegedly caused the death of a patron last April

“LGBTQ persons should feel safe in these spaces we choose to congregate in the Gayborhood,” Culler said.

To expand on that point, Culler added that the next mayor should also work on is increasing Gayborhood security. He said there are currently no cameras near Gayborhood bars and other establishments.

“There have been multiple attacks on our community throughout the country,” Culler said. “The least the next mayor can do is try to prevent one of these attacks inside our safe space, which is the Gayborhood.”

Culler said the third thing the mayor should work on is providing funding for free services, such as Mazzoni Center and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“I would like the next mayor to commit funds to help these organizations continue to offer free services to the LGBTQ community.”

Like Kenney and Larson, Culler noted the increased attacks on trans women as well as women of color both in Philadelphia and across the nation. He said the fourth thing the next mayor should focus on is protecting these women.

“The next mayor has to encourage new laws to protect [these] lives and prosecute those who target women to the fullest extent permissible by applicable law.”

Lastly, Culler said the next mayor should work on increasing visibility within the Mayor’s Office. While he has noted that Kenney and previous mayors have done a “fantastic job” with the Office of LGBT Affairs, Culler hopes LGBTQ visibility expands to other offices under the mayor.

“I think we need more visibility outside of that office,” he said.

The primary election for Philadelphia mayor will take place on May 16. As of January 18, ten Democratic candidates — Amen Brown, Jeff Brown, Warren Bloom, James DeLeon, Allan Domb, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Rebecca Rhynhart — and no Republicans are currently vying for the primary.

This article is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
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