Pa. LGBTQ groups mobilize against Moms For Liberty gathering in Philly

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 GOP presidential candidate, is expected to address the group

By: - June 2, 2023 11:17 am

DeSantis receives a ceremonial ‘Liberty Sword’ at last year’s Moms for Liberty national summit in Tampa, Florida (Photo via Florida Governor’s Office/City & State Fla.).

As LGBTQ+ organizations around the country celebrate the start of Pride Month, a coalition of trans- and queer-led groups are hosting a Pride event on Friday to protest the annual Moms For Liberty conference at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott later this month and the event’s keynote speaker, Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

The 6:15 p.m. event comes as the General Assembly returns to session next week to an agenda that includes final approval of a long-sought LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination bill.

 The main goal of the Pride event is to “educate the community on the dangerous rhetoric and inflammatory agenda being spread” by Moms For Liberty and DeSantis, organizers said in a statement.

DeSantis’ headlined the group’s summit last year, City & State Florida reported

The conservative advocacy group will hold its second annual summit at the hotel from June 29 to July 2.

The first was held in Tampa, Fla., last year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Speaking to the newspaper in April, the group’s co-founder, Tina Descovich, said the city’s historic setting highlights its focus on “preserving American values.”

And behind the Sunshine State, Pennsylvania has the second-most members of the advocacy group, Descovich told the newspaper.

As governor of Florida, DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation. 

Moms For Liberty is a conservative nonprofit organization dedicated to “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government,” according to the Moms For Liberty website.

Meet Moms for Liberty, the group leading LGBTQ book bans in Pa. schools

There are Moms For Liberty chapters in 27 Pennsylvania counties, and the organization most recently focused on the removal of literature with content relating to gender identity and gender expression from school libraries and classrooms. 

According to their website, Moms for Liberty has a chapter in Philadelphia, where City Council has made its support of the LGBTQ+ community clear. It also has a chapter in the three of the four counties that border Philadelphia (Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware counties). 

Pride groups are gathering outside of the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott. They plan to showcase the history of Moms For Liberty and its campaigns across the nation, including their successes and defeats. 

“I think one of the things Moms For Liberty is trying to do is sort of ‘other’ or pathologize transness and LGBTQ-ness,” ACT UP member Max Ray-Riek told the Capital-Star “Having this joyful, celebratory Pride event gives us the opportunity to reject the pathologizing, the pushing to the shadows and the rhetoric that our existence is inherently sexual.” 

Ray-Reik’s organization, ACT UP, is committed to ending the AIDS crisis, and is an LGBTQ+ rights supporter. 

In a letter to a group of Democratic state lawmakers who’d raised concerns about the event, the hotel’s general manager, Ken Reed, said that “as a hotel that provides accommodations and event space to the public, we must serve people from all walks of life, with all points of view, equally — even when the views they espouse may be far from our own values. Please know that our hotel will decline business that would break the law, or otherwise pose a threat to the safety of the public, our guests, or our staff.”

The letter was published in its entirety by the Philadelphia Gay News on May 11.

LGBTQ+ leaders recently celebrated the state House’s approval of House Bill 300, known as the Fairness Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. 

Parents, educators in Pa. and beyond organize against Moms for Liberty

“I love and trust my neighbors, and I trust my employers, but you never know what could happen in a place where your legal rights aren’t protected,” Ray-Reik said. 

The majority-Democrat chamber voted 102-98 last month to approve the bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel D-Allegheny, though it still faced heavy Republican opposition. It’s now before the Republican-controlled state Senate, where its fate is unsure. 

Across Pennsylvania, voters from both parties showed support for the bill, according to a survey by Centerline, a nonprofit focused on forging consensus to advance centrist policy solutions.

Seventy-one percent of  the voters interviewed were in support of the bill, with 51% of Republicans in favor, 73% among Independents and 90% among Democrats, according to the survey, which included 800 registered voters, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46%.

Last year, the state Senate passed two bills surrounding gender expression and gender identity in schools, however none of them became law. 

House Bill 972 would have separated sports at public schools by biological sex, not accounting for gender identity. Senate Bill 1278 prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from pre-k to fifth grade, and is allowed at an “age-appropriate” level from sixth-12th grade. 

Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland, who sponsored the transgender sports bill, reintroduced the bill in this year’s legislative session. It’s now before the House Education Committee

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