The Equality Forum, a gay and lesbian cultural and educational event that draws as many as 75,000 people to Philadelphia each spring, is the latest to lose special-event funding from the city.
The loss of the city's $115,000 contribution - about 13 percent of the budget for the weeklong event - will force reductions in promotion and advertising, Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, said yesterday.
Lazin said the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community - which voted overwhelmingly for Mayor Nutter - feels the funding cut is not only "grossly unfair" but counterproductive for the city.
City commerce and convention officials have worked for almost a decade to attract the gay and lesbian tourism market, worth $70 billion annually nationwide. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. figures that the typical gay tourist in Philadelphia spends $230 a day, Lazin said.
"When Mayor Nutter was elected, we felt like we finally had a seat at the table," Lazin said. "Now we feel like that seat has been pulled out from under us."
Nutter's spokesman, Doug Oliver, countered that the city, which is facing a mammoth budget deficit, simply cannot afford to fund special events when libraries, pools and fire companies are on the chopping block.
Among the events the city will not help underwrite this year are the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Festival. The Mummers' Parade got a reprieve this year but will receive no city funding next year.
"They all make the economic argument that they bring tourism to the city," Oliver said. "We do not refute that argument. But the simple fact remains that the city has been faced with back-to-back billion-dollar [budget] cuts."
The city expects to get some money through the federal stimulus package just passed by Congress, but it will go to job-creating projects such as repairing sewers, bridges and roads, Oliver said.
"There is no indication," he added, "that the stimulus will have a significant impact on the city's operating budget."
The Equality Forum began almost 17 years ago as a gay festival and has grown into a weeklong extravaganza, with lectures, workshops and symposia on issues affecting its community, as well as parties and rallies involving 75 regional, national and international organizations.
This year's forum runs from April 27 to May 3. Although some events and parties, including the "international equality dinner," have cover fees, most forum activities are free, Lazin said.
In all, the budget for the week is about $900,000, with about $200,000 coming from the state and smaller amounts from marketing sponsors and foundations. Lazin said he expected the state would come through with its pledge.
The loss of the city's $115,000 contribution - of which the forum was notified by letter last month - puts the organization in a difficult spot because it has committed money for speakers, venues and so forth.
"There are very few areas to cut," Lazin said. "It means less promotion."
Among the first things to go, he said, is the monthlong rainbow flag display on Broad Street.