Thursday, May 09, 2013

Landmark Philadelphia LGBT Equality Bill Signed

Had the pleasure of meeting Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter during the February LGBT Media Journalists Convening when he addressed our group, laid out his vision for an inclusive Philadelphia and asked us to consider returning the media convening to the City of Brotherly Love .
And nope, he wasn't kidding about that vision of an inclusive Philadelphia.  

Today Mayor Nutter signed a groundbreaking LGBT Equality Bill pushed by Philadelphia Councilman Jim Kenney.  With this bill now law, Philadelphia can now proudly claim it has the most expansive LGBT protections in the United States.

This omnibus bill includes first in the nation tax credits to support life partner and transgender health benefits in the private sector and removes anti-transgender discrimination from the City employee health plan. Philadelphia is now the largest city to remove trans health care discrimination from its workforce and the only city on the east coast to do so. The bill also includes provisions for partner hospital visitation rights, voluntary single user gender neutral rest rooms and strongly delineates standards for employment and public accommodations standards for transgender individuals.

Many of the employment and public accommodations standards were included in the 2002 Fair Practices Ordinance Philly activists worked hard with allies to get pass, but are often misunderstood by the public and are under attack in other jurisdictions like Arizona as we speak.

With Philadelphia's unique place in America’s history, it felt it
needed to clarify these standards for the public and had a responsibility to speak to the country at large regarding fairness for all citizens 

“As a City employee, I’m relieved to no longer have to worry over being denied care for necessary services like mammograms or, God forbid, treatment for breast cancer that are routinely denied trans people," said Kathy Padilla.  "I’m relieved to no longer have to worry over hiding parts of my medical history from providers for fear of it being entered into my file and then leading to denial of other needed services or being an inducement to discrimination. I’m overjoyed that medically necessary trans specific treatment supported by the American Medical Association will be available to people like myself on the same basis as medically necessary treatment for other conditions is available to all my coworkers. This coverage is part of my compensation package, I pay for it with my payroll deductions – I shouldn't be treated differently from other employees based solely upon gender identity."

"The City loses money when transgender people are denied mammograms or pelvic exams and early treatment does not occur," she continued.  "The City loses money when people are afraid and hide their full medical histories from physicians and the City loses money when people simply give up and don’t seek needed medical care until it becomes a crisis over fear of interacting with a system that devalues them.”

"I originally drafted the language that eventually added "gender identity"/"gender expression" to Philadelphia's Fair Practice Ordinance," said Michael Williams   "From the time we started working on this issue (2002) until today, my beloved friend and colleague Kathy Padilla and I have not rested until ALL of Philadelphia's LGBT community received the protections they enjoy after today's bill became law.  Kathy and I have had brilliant, passionate and committed LGBT community members and colleagues, LGBT community allies, elected officials, their staffs, folks from the religious, labor, human rights and many other communities and individuals work with us for over a decade to achieve this monumental goal - equality for ALL of Philadelphia's citizens."

"For me personally, the protections in this bill for me and for my family (my husband Tony and I, officially married in Long Beach, CA in August 2008, will celebrate our 29-year anniversary on July 20th, 2013) are paramount.  We, our sons Kristopher and Robert, Robert's wife Jynea and Rob and Jynea's soon-to-be-delivered into this world baby girl (Miss Kaylee Rose Kneisler is expected to make her appearance in the next few weeks!) are a family that should and must be afforded protections that EACH and EVERY family in this City enjoys right now...and this bill makes this happen.."

Congratulations to the folks in Philadelphia.  Here's hoping the LGBT Equality Law that is now enacted there will become model legislation for the rest of the country to emulate.

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