This year’s Equality Forum will feature discussions with national LGBT leaders, social events and the dedication of two new LGBT historic markers — all set to the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention.
Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin said he moved the event from its usual May timeframe to take advantage of the occasion, during which 50,000 Democrats and media are expected to be in town.
“The last time the DNC was here was 1948, so this is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have LGBT content presented during the convention,” Lazin said. “What we’re doing this year is collaborating with over 25 national leaders and organizations and convening what I would call the superstars of our movement. They will not only be looking back but more importantly discussing the future of the movement, exploring what it is that we’re calling on both political parties to accomplish.”
Programming will be held during the day, which could attract many of the expected several-hundred LGBT delegates to the DNC, who will be at convention activities at night.
Local communities are also welcomed, Lazin noted.
“We certainly expect to see the out delegates and alternates and are making the information available to them, but we’re also collaborating with a number of regional organizations to make sure the content of the 2016 Equality Forum is available to the Philadelphia region’s LGBT community,” he said.
There will be four panel discussions July 25-28 — on legal issues, politics, the future of the LGBT-rights movement and a forum with out elected officials.
The legal panel features participants such as Roberta Kaplan, who argued the Supreme Court case that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the SCOTUS case that brought national marriage equality.
Out Congressman Jared Polis will take part in the politics panel, while gay Congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney and Mark Takano will sit on the elected-officials panel. The discussion on the movement’s future will feature such speakers as Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.
LGBT leaders will also be involved in two historical-marker dedications.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the installation of a marker at 21st and Locust streets to designate where pioneering LGBT activists Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen lived in the 1960s, as well as at Arch Street Meetinghouse at 320 Arch St., where 300 activists met in 1979 to plan that year’s National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
The Gittings marker will be dedicated at 11 a.m. July 26 in a ceremony led by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker and featuring music by Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, of which Gittings was a member. The Arch Street dedication will include remarks by Dustin Lance Black, the out filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for “Milk,” about LGBT pioneer Harvey Milk.
The programming will wrap up with the presentation of the Frank Kameny Award to former Gov. Ed Rendell, along with the 21st-annual International Role Model Award.
All Equality Forum programming is free and open to the public, except Thursday’s LGBT Champions Award, which is a ticketed event.
Lazin declined to speculate on when Equality Forum will be held next year.