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Press Release: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Hosts Program on Pennsylvania’s Pioneering Role in LGBT Rights

March 10, 2016

Filed under Exhibits, Press Releases

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), in collaboration with the LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, is presenting a program from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in the auditorium of the State Museum of Pennsylvania to celebrate Pennsylvania’s pioneering role in LGBT rights.

Dr. Anthony Silvestre, former chair of the Pennsylvania Council for Sexual Minorities, will speak, along with a panel of several former members of the Council, including Samuel Deetz and Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), and whose new memoir outlines the creation of the Council. Panelists will discuss their experience on the Council, their accomplishments and the legacy of the Council. There will also be a discussion of future LGBT public policy efforts.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow, sponsored by PGN, and will include the opening of a new exhibit about early LGBT activism in Pennsylvania and public policy initiatives similar to the Council.

The exhibit, titled “We’re Here: Pioneering LGBT Rights in Pennsylvania” marks the emergence of the equality movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the late 1960s and its progress in the commonwealth during the 1970s. Featuring photographs, documents and objects related to this pivotal moment in civil rights history, the exhibit focuses on the partnership between dedicated LGBT activist coalitions and Governor Milton Shapp, who came to office with a unique understanding of the issues of discrimination against minorities, leading to unprecedented executive action in Pennsylvania for LGBT equality. “We’re Here: Pioneering LGBT Rights in Pennsylvania” runs through October 30.

Shapp was also the first governor in the nation to hold an official meeting with LGBT activists, issue an executive order banning discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation for state employees (in 1975) and enact a proclamation for a gay pride celebration, making him the nation’s first “LGBT Equality Governor.”

The exhibit will also commemorate the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Pennsylvania Council for Sexual Minorities. Created by executive order by Governor Milton Shapp in February 1976, the Council is the first governmental body devoted to LGBT civil rights and public policy advocacy in the US.

The Council was created with representatives of major state government agencies as well as representatives of the LGBT community from throughout Pennsylvania to discuss and advise state government leaders on LGBT issues affecting public policy through the various agencies and “to recommend ways in which discrimination against sexual minorities can be ended,” according to the executive order. The Council was active through the end of Governor Dick Thornburgh’s administration, after which it became inactive.

The PHMC, the LGBT Center of Central PA, Equality Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress will co-sponsor the event.

MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639