Senate pulls funding for Philadelphia LGBTQ community center hours before vote

Libs of TikTok targeted William Way LGBT Community Center

The front of William Way LGBT Community Center
William Way LGBT Community Center

By Christopher Kane, Washington Blade Courtesy of the NLGBTQ Media Association

In remarks at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said he was “horrified” to learn his office had issued a letter on Tuesday that stripped a $1 million earmark for the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, which had been targeted by the anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok.

The move came just before the chamber is set to vote on the appropriations package on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, at the 11th hour my staff was made aware that funding for William Way, which was in the bill because I championed it, would not pass in the FY24 appropriations process,” he said in a follow-up statement from his office. “The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans, and ultimately killed.”

Fetterman had secured funding for the community center after House Republicans struck it — along with earmarks for two other LGBTQ centers — from an appropriations bill, in what the Pennsylvania senator called “misguided and bigoted culture war efforts.”

While he told Business Insider that he intended to withdraw the letter, the news outlet notes the final earmark requests had already been entered into the congressional record, and Pennsylvania’s senior Democratic U.S. senator, Bob Casey, had also withdrawn his support for William Way.

In a post on X Tuesday, Libs of TikTok wrote that the Senate funding bill “includes $1M of your tax dollars to go towards renovating an LGBTQ Center in PA which boasts rooms to try BDSM and s*x f*tishes and hosts BDSM and s*x k*nk parties.”

Casey’s office told Business Insider that while he will “continue to support the LGBTQ community” in Pennsylvania and “believes that consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want in their free time,” ultimately “Senator Casey withdrew his request for federal funding when new information about the third-party use of the facility emerged.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, William Way Center Executive Director Chris Bartlett said those allegations were “lies and distortions:”

“The William Way LGBT Community Center was disappointed to learn that support for federal Congressionally Directed Spending to renovate and expand our historic headquarters on 1315 Spruce St. in Philadelphia was withdrawn as a result of lies and distortions about our Center shared by political extremists.

These extremists falsely stated that sexual behavior is allowed in rental programs of the Center, which is inaccurate and against our Center’s code of conduct. 

The Center will continue to be a safe haven for a broad range of hundreds of community groups who rent from us, including those that provide a space for sexual health promotion, community building and education. 

The William Way LGBT Community Center stands firmly against discrimination and will work with our elected officials to ensure that support for our Center, and other LGBTQ institutions across the nation, is restored.”

Denise Spivak, CEO of CenterLink, a member-based organization of more than 375 LGBTQ community centers around the world, also shared a statement with the Blade:

“The William Way LGBT Community Center, like LGBTQ centers across the country, provides a wide variety of services, resources, and space to the greater Philadelphia LGBTQ community,” she said.

“It is deeply concerning that support for crucial funds is being withdrawn due to misinformation from extremists and this response sets an unfortunate and dangerous precedent.

We urge lawmakers to fully understand the immense value and vital, often lifesaving, services that LGBTQ centers provide for their communities as they weigh support for funding.” 

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here:

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