“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to our members and our community for the privilege of serving as Chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association,” Kulp told The Philadelphia Gay News.
But, says Kulp, there is hard and relentless work involved, as exemplified by the enumeration of recent legal battles.
“As lawyers, we have a responsibility to be leaders in society, and as LGBTQ+ lawyers, we have a special responsibility to advocate for the entire LGBTQ+ community,” Kulp said.
He added that although the organization’s membership is now wholly out to the community, that carries its own burden. Kulp asserted, “This work takes courage, bravery and a bit of grit. Our organization’s success is a credit to the strength we have when we work together with purpose.”
That advocacy is apparent in the work of the organization’s Secretary, Gregory Yorgey-Girdy, who just won his judicial race on Election Day, becoming the first openly gay man in history elected as a judge on the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
For Yorgey-Girdy, his role at Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association has been part of a journey culminating in that election. He told PGN, “I’m honored to have received the number of votes I did in both the primary and general election, and if you voted for me I again thank you. I owe so much of this win to my husband, my kids, and a close circle of friends who supported me.”
Yet many would argue Yorgey-Girdy owes that win primarily to the work he has done over years in Philadelphia — work that has helped make the community a safer space to be someone like himself: a Black gay man with a husband and children.
Yorgey-Girdy said, “As a board member and current Secretary, it has been my privilege to help the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association grow as a highly respected voice in the legal community. It is an incredible responsibility to help lead our organization in achieving its goals and purpose.”
As Legal and Public Policy Director for the Mazzoni Center, Thomas Ude, Jr., Vice-Chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, is dealing with the healthcare aspects of LGBTQ discrimination that have impacted the community since the inception of then-PAHR. Ude told PGN, “I have been excited to see the Bar Association continue to grow and develop programs to help attorneys and law students across Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ communities connect with one another.”
Ude said, “I have been excited to work with Stephen, Becca [Levin Navak, Treasurer] and Greg on the executive board this year.”
Yorgey-Girdy echoed Ude, noting, “Our Chair, Stephen Kulp, has inspired folks to believe in the power our community holds and the limitless potential in the sum of us.”
Kulp has taken that dictate very seriously and is, with the help of the executive board, propelling the organization forward. He said, “When my peers elected me to lead this organization, I promised to advance diversity and inclusion in the profession — to promote and celebrate our members so that everyone is valued and has equal opportunity to participate and succeed as LGBTQ+ law students, lawyers and judges.”
Kulp asserted that his work and that of the organization has also been to create access for growth. He notes, “Our organization provided our members access to diverse CLE (Continuing Legal Education) programs focusing on policy, advocacy, health and wellness, and DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in the past year at no charge.”
Among the things Kulp says the organization has done this year is create an atmosphere of support by “supporting newly admitted LGBTQ+ lawyers at a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony with Hon. Idee Fox, presiding and Hon. Ann Butchart, Hon. Abbe Fletman and Hon. Daniel Anders celebrating these young lawyers from the bench.”
Kulp said making people aware of the organization and its myriad goals is also key. Kulp said, “We hosted town halls to hear from candidates running for Municipal Court, Court of Common Pleas and District Attorney. We are expanding new legal pathways for LGBTQ+ rights that honor the trailblazers that formed our organization in 1986. We have collaborated with the other affinity bar associations in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and expanded our work with National Bar Associations to ensure LGBTQ voices had a seat at the table.”
For Yorgey-Girdy, there is yet more to accomplish. He notes that “less than a year ago I wasn’t seriously considering a run for public office. But with the encouragement of my family, friends and the grace of God, I decided that I’d launch a campaign.”
Now Yorgey-Girdy represents another achievement of the organization by being elected a judge. He said, “I look forward to serving all Philadelphians as a judge, and I will uphold my campaign promise of doing what I can internally within the First Judicial District to be an agent of change from within.”
Kulp says, “Our diversity makes our organization unique. We give back to our community through pro bono initiatives that seek to protect those at the intersection of sexuality, race, age and gender.”
He adds that it is essential to “ensure we speak on behalf of the minorities within a minority. All of this is building blocks towards advocacy.”
To learn more about the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association visit: philalgbtqbar.org/.