LGBT vote is crucial for mayoral candidates
IT'S TOO EARLY to predict which of the mayoral candidates will be in or out come November. But one thing is clear, the six Democratic candidates, who are in a heated battle to win the May primary, think the LGBT vote could make or break them.
IT'S TOO EARLY to predict which of the mayoral candidates will be in or out come November.
But one thing is clear, the six Democratic candidates, who are in a heated battle to win the May primary, think the LGBT vote could make or break them.
"The LGBT vote in an urban community can make the difference between a win or a loss, so it doesn't surprise me that the candidates are doing aggressive outreach," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, which fights for the passage of same-sex legislation.
This once-shunned, and often closeted, cohort has not only become politically hip, it is now viewed by candidates as critical.
Gay residents can make up "a minimum of 10 percent of the population" of large cities, they generally vote and they are politically astute and engaged, Solomon said.
That aside, urban voters, gay or straight, overwhelmingly support marriage equality and civil rights, Solomon noted.
"Certainly over the course of the past 50 years and even over the course of the last five years, support for equality for LGBT people has grown rapidly and with that, so has the support of elected officials," Solomon said. "You'd be hard pressed to get a serious candidate running for mayor in a large city who stands against equality. "
Earlier this month, Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney held a news conference at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Center City to proudly proclaim the endorsement of seven notable leaders, including State Rep. Brian Sims.
"Jim Kenney has been a tireless advocate for the LGBT community for nearly 25 years," Sims said. "From the fight for domestic partner benefits in the 1990s to transgender health care in 2013, Jim has never abandoned the fight for equality even when it was politically unpopular. I look forward to working with him to stop LGBT discrimination in our equality schools and throughout Philadelphia."
On Wednesday, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams held his own press conference at the William Way LGBT Community Center, where he stood with seven other LGBT leaders, including Mel Heifetz, whom Williams touted as "a nationally renowned LGBT activist and philanthropist."
"I believe in the power of diversity and I believe Philadelphia is strongest when it embraces inclusion and equality," Williams said in a statement. "As early as 1995, I was one of only two legislators who, in the face of great opposition, spoke out and voted against narrowly defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman."
Solomon, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits - and Won, said that LBGT voters look to community leaders for guidance on which candidate to choose. But having leaders who support different candidates is not necessarily a negative, he said.
"You want a situation where the top candidates are all stalwart supporters of equality and you can decide your vote based on their platforms and what they'll do for the city."
Alejandro Morales, a gay stand-up comedian and screenwriter who lives in Philly, offered a humorous take on the candidates' courtship of the LGBT vote.
"They really seem to be in a desperate hurry to collect gay friends. Even single girls without prom dates are like, 'Relax,' " Morales joked.