Philadelphia mayoral candidates speak out on LGBTQ rights

(*This story was updated at 1:11pm Monday 5/12/22 to correctly reflect candidate Alan Domb’s position on LGBTQ-related issues.)

By Jeremy Rodriguez

PHILADELPHIA – The city’s 2023 mayoral race has been heating up in recent weeks as more and more candidates enter the race to succeed incumbent Mayor Jim Kenney. As of November 29, seven people have announced their candidacy for next May’s Democratic primary, with the winner of the primary almost certain to be elected mayor in November.

Philadelphia Gay News contacted the seven mayoral candidates — Jeff Brown, James DeLeon, Allan Domb, Derek Green, Cherelle Parker, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Rebecca Rhynhart — about their position on LGBTQ rights. An eighth candidate, Helen Gym, announced her candidacy after writing this article.

jeff brown

As the owner of a ShopRite chain of stores in the Philadelphia area, Brown is the only candidate with no prior political work. However, he has long been associated with Democratic circles and was an outspoken opponent of Mayor Kenney’s soda tax.

According to his campaign site, Brown plans to address poverty, public safety, public education, economic opportunity and reducing recidivism. Additionally, in a statement to PGN, Brown said that he will be a “fierce advocate and advocate for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community.” His planned initiatives include providing resources to LGBTQ youth and seniors. For the latter, this includes leveraging city resources, including private and non-profit associations, to expand housing opportunities. Brown also plans to make sure his leadership team reflects the LGBTQ community and has noted a growing trend of violence against the LGBTQ community in his plans to address public safety.

The candidate said he also wants to work closely with city agencies and organizations that have filled the gap between the needs of the LGBTQ community and what city government has provided.

“We must find ways to ensure better collaboration/partnership and innovative ways to direct resources to organizations doing critical work in the LGBTQ+ community,” Brown said.

James DeLeon

DeLeon, who served as a municipal judge for 34 years and as chair of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee’s legal committee, is running on a platform to combat gun violence within the city. This includes, but is not limited to, violence faced by the LGBTQ community. In an interview with PGN, DeLeon said that violence against the community makes him “sick.” According to his campaign website, DeLeon plans to offer solutions-based listening sessions throughout the city with families and communities affected by gun violence.

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DeLeon also told PGN that he plans to implement a new leadership position, a commissioner for the LGBTQ community, if he is elected mayor. The city has an Office of LGBTQ Affairs and a commission that works with the mayor, but DeLeon said this position would have higher authority and would meet regularly with the mayor to discuss issues within the LGBTQ community.

“In Philadelphia, everyone wants to be treated equally,” DeLeon told PGN. “A person must be able to be who they want to be. As long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s rights, they should be left alone to support their own freedom and rights. It’s that easy”.

allan hill

Domb, a former City Council member at large, entered the mayoral race with the intent of rebuilding trust in law enforcement and addressing the root causes of crime in the city. Specifically, Domb plans to declare a state of emergency to address Kensington’s public health and safety crisis on his first day in office.

Speaking to PGN, Domb noted that the LGBTQ community faces disproportionate risks of violent crime and that he looks forward to working with the community to strengthen the city. He also plans to “work with LGBTQ+ business owners to ensure their businesses have the tools to grow, prosper, and create good-paying jobs.”

“Members of the LGBTQ+ community are represented in every corner of our city and across all demographic groups,” Domb said. “I am proud that Philadelphia is one of the most welcoming in the country and I will continue to fiercely advocate for civil rights as mayor.”

previously cosponsored a resolution with Green and Parker tor oppose legislation (HB972)ultimately vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, which would have barred the state’s transgender student-athletes from participating in sports appropriate to their gender.

derek green

Since his election as General Councilor in 2015, Green has worked to support the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways. Green told PGN how he introduced legislation in 2017 to expand penalties on companies that violate the Fair Practices Ordinance, which Kenney signed later that year. Green previously told the PGN he introduced the bill as a result of attending a community forum in October 2016 where members of the LGBTQ community spoke about their experiences with racism and discrimination in Philadelphia’s gay neighborhood.

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In addition, Green cosponsored the resolution opposing HB972, along with Domb and Parker. He also proposed legislation to create gender-inclusive language in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, cosponsored bill no. 190558 to require youth organizations to adopt nondiscrimination guidelines for transgender and gender nonconforming youth, and sponsored a resolution which called for an investigation into faith-based agencies that refuse to accept same-sex couples as adoptive parents.

“Philadelphians, regardless of their community, want to see a city that works better than it currently does,” Green told PGN. “And so I decided to run for mayor. I believe all Philadelphians should expect more and deserve better from his leadership.”

cherelle parker

Parker, who did not respond to PGN’s request for comment, has supported several bills to promote the LGBTQ community throughout her career as a city council member.

In her role, Parker co-sponsored the resolution opposing the statewide ban on transgender sports along with Domb and Green. She was also a major sponsor of a bill calling for investigations into faith-based foster care agencies that refuse to allow same-sex couples to adopt. She also cosponsored the state’s first bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples.

Parker’s career began in college when she worked as an intern for then-Ward 9 Councilwoman Marian Tasco. She then joined the Tasco council staff in 1995 and a decade later, she represented the 200th Legislative District in Harrisburg. When Tasco retired in 2015, Parker successfully won the election to take over from her former boss.

Most recently, she ousted Councilmember Bobby Henon as Majority Leader following his indictment on federal corruption charges in 2020. In 2021, Parker became the first woman to chair the DRPA Board of Commissioners.

Maria Quinones-Sanchez

Speaking to PGN, Quiñones-Sánchez said she is proud that the City Council has strengthened the Fair Practices Ordinance during her time as a council member. In addition, she highlighted her support in “efforts to make housing, education and jobs more accessible, ensuring that members of the LGBTQ + community and all Philadelphians have more opportunities.” This includes support bill 130224which offered tax credit incentives to companies that add same-sex partners to insurance plans and numerous benefits for transgender people.

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However, he said that being a strong ally and supporting legislation for the LGBTQ community “is not enough.”

“I think it’s essential to have people with lived experience at the table so that we can make informed decisions,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “That is why I have always made sure to have members of the LGBTQ+ community on my staff, especially members of the Latinx community. I recognize the intersectionality of identity: if someone is black or brown and LGBTQ+, particularly if they are transgender, they face additional challenges. We need to make Philadelphia a place where everyone is welcome and can succeed.”

rebecca rhyhart

Before being elected as City Controller in 2017, Rhynhart served as Kenney’s managing director. During his campaign for city controller, Rhynhart he told the PGN that in this last position he helped “establish the best practices in hiring, to have the most diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Under Rhynhart’s guidance, the controller’s office released reports on the city’s lost $33 million in taxpayer money, police spending, investigations into the city’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the city ​​vaccine rollouts, trash pickup during the pandemic, plans to reduce gun violence, a spending plan for the city’s $1.4 billion portion of the American Rescue Fund, administrative issues under the Kenney administration, and details on how to establish fiscal transparency within city operations.

When it comes to LGBTQ issues, Rhynhart said in a statement to PGN that “the community is part of the rich diversity that makes Philadelphia Philadelphia.”

“We should all be able to love who we love without judging or hating,” she said. “I support the LGBTQIA+ community and will fight tirelessly for your rights as mayor. All of our people, especially communities that have historically been stifled, deserve a government that will fight for them and make sure they have what they need to thrive.”

Helen Gym

The former city councilwoman at large announced her candidacy on November 30, after this article was written. Gym has been an active ally of the LGBTQ community, and PGN will cover her candidacy as she continues her career.