Philadelphia City Council and judicial candidates touted progressive ideas and support of the LGBT community Wednesday night in a forum held by Liberty City Democrats.
More than 20 candidates for judge and Council addressed the crowd at the William Way LGBT Community Center in three-minute speeches, and later fielded questions from the audience.
Council incumbents including Kenyatta Johnson, W. Wilson Goode, and Blondell Reynolds Brown reminded the crowd that they had voted in favor of several successful LGBT-rights bills introduced over the last three years.
Brown told the audience she planned to introduce legislation this week to make permanent the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs.
Former Councilman Frank Rizzo, who is running for Council at-large, got some of the toughest questions, such as: What would make him more effective as a Democrat?
"Part of my problem as a Republican is that I thought more like a Democrat," he said. Rizzo was a Republican member of Council for 16 years and recently changed his registration.
Rizzo was also taken to task for a 2008 vote he cast against a resolution to oppose defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"That was 2008, and a lot has changed, and I'm in favor of those changes," he said.
Sherrie Cohen got some of the loudest applause of the night, calling on the community to elect her as the first openly gay person on Council.
"It's time, or perhaps past time," she said.
Paul Steinke, a former manager of Reading Terminal Market, was also enthusiastically greeted by the crowd.
Steinke, who is gay, said the most pressing LGBT issues were better sensitivity training for police on responding to crimes involving transgender people and improving opportunities for LGBT youths.
Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty, who is running for the state Supreme Court, said he wants to end punitive and permanent rulings against youth. He mentioned a case of a bullied transgender youth "who fights back, gets charged with aggravated assault, and is a felon for life."
Common Pleas Court Judge Abbe Fletman said her work dealing with 30 percent of the court's criminal cases has been one of balancing "the safety of the community and the rehabilitative needs of mostly young men."
Fletman, who is lesbian, asked the audience to support her: "I humbly ask for your support - it would be very meaningful to me to have the support of my own community."
Liberty City Democrats will announce their endorsements April 12.
Editor's Note: This story was corrected to reflect that Councilmember W. Wilson Goode, not Curtis Jones Jr., was among those to remind the crowd that they had voted in favor of several successful LGBT-rights bills in the past.