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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 26, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 17
Philadelphia passes sweeping LGBT equality bill
Section One
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Philadelphia passes sweeping LGBT equality bill

by Angela Thomas - Philadelphia Gay News

Philadelphia's City Council passed an LGBT equality bill on April 25 that is the first of its kind in several ways.

Bill 130224, approved by a vote of 14-3, offers a tax-credit incentive to businesses that offered employee health plans inclusive of same-sex partners and children, and includes substantial benefits for the Transgender community as well.

Introduced by Councilmember Jim Kenney, the bill revamps the city's health care plan to ban discrimination against nonunion Transgender city employees and institutes a Transgender Health Tax Credit that would allow companies to offer health care tailored to Trans people's specific needs. City buildings will also be required to provide gender-neutral restrooms.

In addition, the bill adds LGBT persons to the city's existing anti-discrimination law, and specifies that same-sex couples have rights equal to straight couples regarding medical decision-making.

Councilmember-at-large Bill Green was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. The other two No votes were cast by Republican Councilmembers-at-large David Oh and Brian O'Neill.

LGBT community members, including State Rep. Brian Sims and Transgender advocate Jordan Gwendolyn Davis, testified to the benefits of the bill.

Davis said the bill would address many of the issues the Transgender and gender-nonconforming community experiences on a day-to-day basis. She moved to Philadelphia, she said, after she experienced Transphobic behavior from individuals in her previous hometown.

OVERCOMING FEAR
'You all have nothing to fear by me or any one Transwoman being in a cisgender woman's space while Transwomen have a lot to fear by being forced into cisgender men's spaces,' she said. 'I believe in the ability for people to evolve and I hope that every member of council has evolved - not only in the cisgender LGB community but for the 'T' as well.'

Dane Menkin, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Mazzoni Center, testified along with his wife and daughter. Menkin, who has been legally married to his partner for four years, said the protections included in the bill would be a tremendous help to his family.

A Transgender male, Menkin has legally changed his name, birth certificate, driver's license, and passport to reflect his gender identity, but he says his health insurance still labels him as female - and did not cover anything related to his transition.

'This has had an impact on my family, both financially and in terms of social and physical safety,' he said. 'When a provider, billing specialist, or receptionist sees me and when my daughter refers to me as 'Daddy' when speaking to me, they immediately become concerned that either my gender marker in their system is wrong or that we engaged in some kind of fraud.'

'THE PHILADELPHIA WAY'
Sims said he hoped today would be a historical day for Philadelphia, which has long celebrated its diversity.

'We are a city that doesn't hide from its diversity, but instead celebrates and proudly displays our cultural, ethnic, sexual, and gender diversity every day for the world to see. It is the Philadelphia way,' he said.

Sims added that the city has long supported and protected its Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual citizens for 30 years and started to protect the Transgender community over a decade ago.

'Quite literally, we are at our best when we are celebrating and embracing our diversity, and it's no surprise that pioneers of the LGBT civil rights movement chose Philadelphia to proudly proclaim that we are here, we are equal, and we deserve the same rights afforded to all of our brothers and sisters,' he said.

LGBT, GLBT, OR TLGB?
Sims noted there is a debate on whether the community should be referred to as 'LGBT' or 'GLBT,' but he emphasized the importance of all community members.

'If we were actually listing the members of the LGBT community in order of ... how hard they worked and of how much farther they have to go, we would be the TLGB community,' he said.

Councilmember Green, who voted no on the bill, said he is proud of the record the council has in supporting the community. He agrees with almost every aspect of the bill, he said, except the tax credit, which he criticized as 'a waste of money because it will go to corporations that already provide this kind of thing.'

Copyright 2013, The Philadelphia Gay News. Reprinted by permission.

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