Six reasons to love the 2014 Equality Forum

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PHOTO / DJCASSIDY.COM

1. DJ Cassidy’s spinning at the SundayOUT! bash.

Let’s start at the end: Equality Forum will conclude at weekend’s end with SundayOUT!, a wildly diverse celebration at the Piazza. The region’s largest LGBT street festival will feature over 100 local artisans, food and drink purveyors and community outreach organizations — not to mention six hours’ worth of live entertainment from an esteemed group of performers. Chester native and rising pop sensation Jamai Mosley will croon before DJ K.Ash, one of Philly’s most prominent LGBT club DJs, takes the stage. The Fuego Dance Company, the city’s largest salsa studio, will lend some exhilarating flare to the event. The most spectacular show will come last, though: DJ Cassidy (pictured above), who’s performed at all sorts of A-list gatherings, from Beyoncé and Jay Z’s wedding to President Obama’s inauguration. He’ll be spinning cuts from his album Paradise Royale, due out this June. / DAN GELB


2. We’ll hear from the key marriage equality champs.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that still denies LGBT couples marriageequality rights, and the legal battle to make sure that ends is taking place in several legal theaters. First, there’s Whitewood v. Wolf, a federal marriage equality lawsuit filed in July 2013 on behalf of 21 commonwealth residents. That suit, brought with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, is the same one our state attorney general, Kathleen Kane, recused herself from last year. Then, there’s the case of one Montgomery County clerk and his badassery: After Kane recused herself from the Whitewood case, Montco clerk Bruce D. Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to LGBT couples on his own damn say-so, till the state shut down his operation. And finally, there’s Equality Forum’s lawsuit against the state, which seeks to force Pennsylvania to accept marriages conducted in other states. The suit was brought by Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker, who were married in Massachusetts in 2005, then relocated to Bryn Mawr, upon which, suddenly, the law said they weren’t married anymore.

If you think you’ve heard all there is to hear about this stuff, you’re wrong. Equality Forum’s National Legal Panel, 1pm Saturday at the University of the Arts, will offer a number of fresh perspectives. Among the moderators and panelists: Adam Romero, who represented the plaintiffs in the first case to declare recognition of same-sex marriage benefits in veterans’ affairs; Robert Heim, lead counsel in the Hanes case; Mark Aronchick, lead counsel in the Whitewood case; Thomas W. Ude, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal; and Eric Kraeutler, lead counsel in Palladino v. Corbett. Sat., May 3. 1pm-2:15pm. Free. University of the Arts, Connelly Auditorium. 211 S. Broad Street. equalityforum.com / RANDY LOBASSO


3. Kathleen Kane will be hanging with the NHL.

A key component to the Equality Forum festivities here in Philadelphia is the organization’s black-tie fête, the International Equality Dinner. Each year, the formal party gathers together queer folks of all stripes and their supporters (aka reasonable human beings who happen to be straight). This year is no different: At the National Museum of Jewish American History this Saturday, Equality Forum presents awards to three recipients—who seem to comprise a particularly interesting mix.

Not surprising: The International Business Leadership Award is going to TD Bank. For years, the North American bank has demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion toward queer folks, mostly through anti-bullying programs. The bank’s equality-centered bona fides come “from the top down,” Equality Forum’s executive director, Malcolm Lazin, tells PW, noting that DiversityInc magazine named TD Bank “one of the top most diverse and inclusive corporations in North America.”

Kathleen Kane will be honored at the affair, too—with the Forum’s Distinguished Equality Award. The Pennsylvania attorney general deserves the recognition, Lazin says, because of her political courage in refusing to defend the state’s gay marriage ban in federal court. “It was something she could have ducked,” he points out, by claiming her position as A.G. required her to defend the state’s gay marriage ban. But she didn’t—and, in fact, her refusal to defend a law she found unconstitutional was dictated by her primary responsibility to uphold the U.S. Constitution. That’s exactly what “her oath of office requires,” Lazin explains.

The surprise, really, is the recipient of the International Role Model: The National Hockey League. “It may sound counterintuitive,” Lazin acknowledges, because of the erroneous cultural perception of tough jocks being anti-gay. “But the NHL is by far the most LGBT progressive of all the professional sports leagues. They have a program called ‘You Can Play,’ which encourages people to be out in sports.”

Most heartening of all, he says, is the fact that every team in the NHL participates in “You Can Play.” The program also “provides diversity training for all [NHL] rookies and for anyone who”—he pauses—“needs some education.” Thankfully, that type of education is paying off, with the NHL players’ association saying that 95 percent of all players would “welcome an openly gay member” to their respective team. International Equality Dinner: Sat., May 3, 6:30pm. National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East. equalityforum.com / JOSH KRUGER


4. The art exhibit shows kids being amazing.

Starting in 2007, photographer Lindsay Morris began attending an annual weekend summer camp for gender-nonconforming children and their parents. The children, free of outside pressure, were able to express themselves through fashion and talent shows. The resulting photographs by Morris, titled “You Are You,” are a fascinating look at gender-nonconforming children in a state of total freedom and support from their loving families. These poignant photos of boys applying makeup and dressing up for strolls down the camp’s catwalk offer an empowering and inspirational look at a safe space for childhood personal expression. Morris’s “You Are You” will be on display at the Avenue Gallery at Gershman Hall, 401 S. Broad St., from May 1–4. She’ll give a free lecture about the exhibit at the University of the Arts, Terra Hall, 211 S. Broad St., Studio 1504, on May 1 at 11:30am. equalityforum.com / D.G.


5. Canada shows us how to do gay marriage.

In 2005, Canada became the first non-European nation to legalize same-sex marriage with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act. Three different Canadian prime ministers and Parliaments have supported the legislation since its initial enactment, ensuring that same-sex marriage in Canada is a pillar of their citizens’ civil liberties. On Saturday, the Equality Forum will hold a discussion with five distinguished Canadian panelists, sharing insights on Canada’s same-sex marriage journey and what the United States can learn from our neighbor to the North. Among the panelists are David Walberg, the CEO of Canada’s largest gay media group, Pink Triangle Press, and Bob Gallagher, the cofounder of the Campaign for Equal Families and Canadians for Equal Marriage. Walberg and Gallagher will be joined by executive director of Egale and LGBT advocate Helen Kennedy, immigration lawyer El-Farouk Khaki and LGBT lawyer Cynthia Petersen. All five panelists have played important roles in Canada’s progress to equality—and will share their journeys during this free conference. Sat., May 3, 2:30 pm. University of the Arts, Terra Hall, 211 S. Broad St. equalityforum.com / D.G.


6. People of faith are pro-LGBT, too.

Over the past decade, more and more Americans have come to believe that a traditional god-centric spirituality and being queer are not mutually exclusive ideas. Which only makes sense: Being queer and being straight are equally natural human states, and spirituality crosses all sorts of human categories. For some, this means elaborate displays of specific god-based faiths; for others, it means a personal relationship with the cosmos or a wonderment toward the beauty of science. One way or another, though—religious or secular—we tend to reach for a larger universe.

Right now, the United Church of Christ, a Christian faith denomination, is engaged in a legal battle in North Carolina. The UCC is claiming the state has infringed on their religious liberties by prohibiting the church from performing same sex marriages. So it’s rather timely that, this weekend, Equality Forum plans to bring together members of various faiths at the annual National Religious Colloquy. Four national leaders of human faith will discuss the “reform and changes in tenor” that currently transform the “relationship between homosexuality” and several mainstream faiths, including Roman Catholicism, the Mormon Church and the United Methodist Church.

Moderated by local Rabbi Linda Holtzman, formerly the rabbi of Congregation Mishkan Shalom and now a leader with the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College, the panel includes: Gerald Argetsinger, the founder of the Gay Mormon Literature Project and a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology; Sister Jeannine Gramick, a cofounder of New Ways Ministry and an executive coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns; Reverend Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister who gained national attention for officiating his son’s same sex wedding; and, Leonard Swidler, a professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University.

The panel has serious spiritual bona fides, and given the latest battle in the struggle for gay rights having a faith-based connection there in North Carolina, this panel looks to be particularly timely. And besides, it might not be a bad idea for folks to start learning about religious rites and equal rights; after all, Equality Forum executive director Lazin says to PW that gay marriage is “absolutely” coming to Pennsylvania. In fact, he goes further: “It’s only a matter of when.” / J.K.

For the full schedule, visit equalityforum.com

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