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Philadelphia, a groundbreaking LGBT-friendly city

in UNITED STATES, 04/05/2012

Since a list of gayest cities from a national magazine earlier this year demanded a response on so many levels, let me respond with this. Move over, New York City, L.A., D.C. and San Francisco: It’s about time the media, especially LGBT media, took note of what people outside those media bubbles are accomplishing. And we’re not talking about nude yoga as a representative case of progress. Let me present to you ... Philadelphia, the nation’s most gay-friendly city — by a long shot. Here are the facts.

— The city gives more funding to the LGBT community than almost any other city in the nation. This year, it was close to $3 million. (That’s dollars alone, not even in-kind services.)

— The state has approved $11 million in tax credits for an LGBT-friendly affordable living facility.

— Our community center owns its own building (no mortgage) and is in the black.

— Our youth organization similarly owns its building without a mortgage.

— Philly has a full-service LGBT health clinic with over 50 employees.

— We have 10 out elected judges. Does any other city have more? And that’s not counting ward leaders and committeemen and women.

— If it weren’t for former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” might still be in effect.

— There is not an appointed level of government in which we are not represented.

— In our city, openly LGBT people serve as college presidents, chancellors of the bar association, vice presidents of banks and heads United Way and major corporations.

— Philadelphia devised an award-winning media campaign to bring LGBT tourists to the city: “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay.”

— In our city, anyone running for mayor — Republicans as well as Democrats — supports marriage equality.

— Philadelphia was one of the first cities to enact domestic-partner legislation, and with a real-estate tax incentive.

— As for community, there are 30-some LGBT softball teams, three choirs/bands, Philadelphia Gay Pride, Black Gay Pride and we’ve had Latino pride festivals, too. Philly also has two LGBT street fairs and more social options than I can list here.

— When LGBT legislation is introduced in City Council, it’s passed unanimously.

— In the city’s attempt to end the Boy Scouts’ support of discrimination against gays in a city-owned building that it occupies rent-free, it has fought a 10-year legal battle and won’t stop until there is victory.

— Companies with city contracts must offer domestic-partner legislation.

— The city routinely invites LGBT journalists to visit, and pays the tab.

— Our city actively bids for — and wins — LGBT conventions and conferences.

— The nation’s oldest LGBT bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, is here.

— The oldest weekly LGBT newspaper in the nation is here. (We do debate that distinction with D.C. and S.F.)

— But there is no debate that PGN is the nation’s most award-winning LGBT publication in the nation.

— The largest trans health conference in the U.S. is held yearly at our convention center.

That list could go on and on without even touching the issue of LGBT American history.

Why is all this important? It’s not just that Philly is No. 1, but it’s a lesson in what can be accomplished if you’ve educated the public to the point where the LGBT community is embraced. Philadelphia is lucky to have its Quaker background. This has helped to create change in our region but also nationwide. The best example in this case is Comcast, which is based in Philly. When Comcast merged with NBC/Universal, it became the nation’s largest entertainment company. But the FCC, in allowing that merger, ordered the creation of a board to guarantee diversity in the new company. In the MOU, the FCC listed African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and women, but skipped LGBT. On its own, Comcast chose to include the LGBT community. That will filter to the 20-some cable channels that Comcast now owns, impacting management and hiring, behind the camera and on-air.

As we’ve done with Comcast and other corporations, it proves that growing your own community has benefits locally and nationally. While all politics are local, they’re national, too.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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