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Sens. Booker, Casey urge LGBTQ activists to fight on

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) told an energized gathering of LGBTQ community leaders on Sunday that engaging in intense grassroots resistance while reaching out to potential Republican allies is the best way to fight any edicts from President Trump that would compromise or destroy their human rights.

During a meeting at Square One Coffee on the ground floor of LGBT-friendly John C. Anderson Apartments for seniors in Center City, Booker told activists that they could not afford to set up dividing lines among themselves. "If you say you're about women's rights, you have to be about LGBT rights, too," he said.

He said had an epiphany during a visit in Newark, N.J., to Covenant House, which shelters homeless teens, when he realized that 40 percent of the youth there were LGBT; homelessness and LGBT issues were parts of the same societal problems.

Booker said that applied to party lines as well. "There are just as many gay Republicans as Democrats," he said. "They just may not be out."

Declaring that the sudden outpouring of engagement in public demonstrations shows that "everybody feels it right now," he urged LGBTQ activists to "use your social media platforms as the antidote to Donald Trump tweeting."

Booker asked the activists to forgive him for two "shameless" pitches. The first one was for Philly. "I love Philly," said the New Jersey senator, "and not just because I love vegan food. Philly has the best vegan food on the planet.

"Blackbird Pizzeria's vegan chicken wings," Booker said, pausing to let the euphoric look on his face say it all, then adding his serious shameless pitch.

He said 25 Senate seats held by Democrats were up for re-election in 2018.  If the Democrats lost eight of those seats, he said, "the Republicans will have a filibuster-proof majority, and it's over.  It's all over."

Booker said that with a filibuster-proof three-fifths majority, so-called "religious freedom bills," which might allow businesses, religious groups, and state government workers to refuse to serve LGBT people, "would fly through."

Booker urged the activists to donate money to their causes. "I don't care if it's one dollar," he said. "Give some money to grassroots groups that help people."

Deja Lynn Alvarez, a trans woman who is director of LGBTQ Home for Hope shelter, said money is a huge issue to advocacy organizations.

"What's the bulk of your funding?" Casey asked.

"There is no bulk of our funding," Alvarez replied.

Casey said he thinks one effect of Trump's presidential orders, like the one barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, is to "galvanize the outrage" from the public. "People are activated and ready to fight back," Casey said.

"These are issues of family," he said. "We are one family." He added, "Thank God for federal judges, who can check executive power."

Casey said that if Trump had said he had reviewed "the most aggressive, most intrusive screening tests of the United States and found a defect," there would be grounds to examine immigration policies. "He hasn't done that," Casey said, "and that's why you see these judges checking his actions."

Longtime Philadelphia gay rights advocate Mark Segal said, "I've been doing (LGBT activism) since 1969, and I never felt more threatened in my life."