Philly’s LGBT office could become permanent through ballot question

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 Nellie Fitzpatrick directs the small Office of LGBT Affairs in the city. Philadelphia voters will decide on whether to make the office permanent Nov. 3. (NewsWorks file photo)

Nellie Fitzpatrick directs the small Office of LGBT Affairs in the city. Philadelphia voters will decide on whether to make the office permanent Nov. 3. (NewsWorks file photo)

A ballot question before Philadelphia voters next month will ask whether to make permanent what is technically a temporary office in city government. 

Philadelphia’s small Office of LGBT Affairs is only operational because of an executive order by Mayor Michael Nutter. Results of the ballot question could make the office a permanent part of city government, said current director Nellie Fitzpatrick.

“What it does exactly is insures that the office cannot be gotten rid of by executive order down the road by another mayor,” she said. “This insures that members of a minority community do truly have their voices heard and a seat at the table right here at the center of our city, in our city government.”

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown proposed the measure, which would change the city’s charter.  Being inclusive is the right thing to do for Philadelphia, she said.

“We have a gazillion reasons why we think it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Being an African-American female, knowing what discrimination looks like and feels like.  Knowing we are an international community.

“And, if we are serious about that, we need to embrace diversity in the biggest way and the LGBT office moves us in that direction,” Reynolds Brown said.

In a previous interview, Fitzpatrick acknowledged the strides made by the LGBT community, but cautioned that more work remains.

“People can get legally married in the state of Pennsylvania; they can come home from their honeymoon; they can place a picture of their legal, loving spouse on their desk at work; and then promptly be fired for doing so,” she said.

City voters will have the final say on officially establishing the Office of LGBT Affairs on Nov. 3.

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