In Philly’s Gayborhood, commission offers refresher course on rights

The William Way LGBT Community Center hosted the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations for a small information session Wednesday night outlining the rights of citizens under the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

The refresher course on Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination law covering businesses, government agencies, and public space comes after a series of racist incidences were reported in the Gayborhood over the past year.

Justin Benoit, who tends bar at Bob and Barbara’s in South Philly, said he attended the session partly to inform himself — and partly so he can encourage customers who complain of discrimination to report it.

“When it does happen to you, you just have that uncertainty that it’s always going to be that way and nothing is going to get done,” he said. “And, if someone came up to me, I would be able to relay the information that I learned here to help them out.”

Nellie Fitzpatrick, Mayor Jim Kenney’s liaison for LGBTQ affairs, said she’d like to see more sessions like this one to inform citizens of their rights to hold businesses and government agencies accountable for discrimination.

Since 1951, the commission “had the power to investigate and enforce our laws and I’m glad to see them doing so. I hope to see more of it,” said Fitzpatrick. “I want to do anything I can to make sure people make reports to them, and that they’re taken seriously, and that our community’s needs are heard and served.”

Wednesday night’s session comes after the commission held its first public hearing on racial discrimination in Philly’s LGBTQ community in the fall. 

The commission will release official recommendations for combating racism in the LGBTQ community Jan. 23.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misnamed the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

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