About Victoria Martin

Victoria Martin is a senior Public Health major at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She is originally from Shippensburg, PA in Cumberland County. Victoria aspires to work in LGBT health upon graduation. She can be reached at vmartin@pennsec.org.

Bethlehem Area School District Adds Gender Identity and Gender Expression to District Policies

The Bethlehem Area School District Board of School Directors unanimously voted to add “gender identity and gender expression” as protected characteristics under the district’s nondiscrimination policies and unlawful harassment policies at a school board meeting on Monday, April 20. The district previously only provided protections for LGBT individuals based upon sexual orientation.

Bethlehem Area School District is now the seventh school district in Pennsylvania to adopt nondiscrimination protections for transgender students, joining Pittsburgh Public Schools, Allentown School District, State College Area School District, Abington School District, New Hope-Solebury School District and Lower Merion School District.

School Board Director Basilio A. Bonilla Jr. led efforts to protect transgender individuals within the district. Bonilla said that he was aware of several transgender students within the district, and upon reviewing the district’s policies, saw that these students had no protection from discrimination under current policy. After consulting with LGBT community leaders, Bonilla contacted the district’s superintendent to discuss amending the policy. Following two initial readings at previous Board of School Directors meetings, the policy was voted upon and passed by a 9-0 vote. “Last night Democrats, Republicans, and an Independent came together to protect the rights of all students, and that is something I am really proud of as a Board Member,” Bonilla told the Keystone Student Voice on Tuesday.

Bonilla said that he intends to continue to advocate for the district’s LGBT students. “We’re not done yet,” he stated. “We need be there to support our kids.” He hopes to establish training for the district’s sports coaching staff on working with LGBT students and to implement a transgender inclusive nondiscrimination policy in the Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School, which serves Bethlehem Area, Saucon Valley, and Northampton Area School Districts.

Bonilla came out as bisexual in March of 2014. He is the first openly LGBT elected official in Bethlehem. In his first year as a School Board Director, he worked with the district’s health insurance provider to offer benefits to same-sex spouses of faculty and staff before marriage equality was legalized in Pennsylvania.

Photo: Express-Times

McGuffey School District Must Implement LGBTQ-Affirming Policies

The Day of Silence was the scariest day of the year for me when I was in high school. Those memories came back to me yesterday, when I learned that at McGuffey High School, a rural Pennsylvania high school in Washington County, students allegedly planned what amounts to an entire anti-LGBTQ Spirit Week to coincide with their Day of Silence on Wednesday. Students posted pictures of themselves on social media wearing flannel shirts on the Day of Silence and writing “Anti-Gay” on their hands. The posts indicated that the students would be wearing red on the following school day to signify their opposition to LGBTQ students, and that they had many more “anti-gay” days planned. Students at McGuffey who participated in the Day of Silence reported that they were verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and had offensive notes taped to their lockers. These students told local Channel 11 News that they are afraid to return to school.   

Organized by GLSEN, the Day of Silence is an annual event in support of LGBTQ students. Participants take a vow of silence for the school day to draw attention to issues of bullying and harassment, which effectively silence LGBTQ youth from living openly. Nationally, the Day of Silence was held on Friday, April 17, but McGuffey High School students choose to observe the event on Wednesday, April 15.

A school board meeting was held on the Thursday following McGuffey High School’s Day of Silence, and students and community members came out to share their stories and their concerns. Kathy Cameron, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance, Inc. was present at the meeting, and reported that several students voiced their experiences on the Day of Silence to the school board members. Cameron described the school board members as being “receptive and reactive,” and stated that they “appeared to understand the gravity of the situation.”

McGuffey School District Superintendent Dr. Erica Kolat released a statement to media, saying, “Yesterday afternoon, April 16, 2015, allegations of harassment were brought to the attention of our administration. McGuffey School District, along with school police officers, continue to investigate all allegations. We will follow our Student Code of Conduct, and file legal citations, as warranted. We resolve to ensure that all children can grow and learn in a safe, supportive environment free from discrimination.”

Taking a stand against the harassment and violence which has already occurred is a good first step, but ensuring that all students grow and learn in an environment free from discrimination requires greater institutional change.

For the past three school years, McGuffey School District has reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education that zero incidents of bullying have occurred in the district, despite the fact that the CDC has found that about 20% of students in Pennsylvania report being the targets of bullying. Additionally, the district’s nondiscrimination policy and anti-bullying policy contain no mention of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

I call upon McGuffey School District to send a clear message against discrimination by updating their nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies to list sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected categories, accurately reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Education incidents of bullying, and appropriately preventing and intervening in all situations of student intimidation and harassment.  

As I read the reports about McGuffey High School, I was immediately taken back to a spring day when I was in middle school, sitting in the back of the bus and trying to blend in with the infinitely cooler high school students as they conversed about the high school’s upcoming “Gay Day.” The general consensus of the group was that on the Day of Silence next week, which they called “Gay Day,” you were supposed to wear “black if you’re anti-gay, white if you’re gay, and red if you’re not gay, but you support gay people.” There was some contention over the proper color to identify oneself as bisexual. I wasn’t even in high school at the time, and no sort of event had been spoken of at the middle school, but I was terrified of drawing unwanted attention to myself or causing offense through my almost entirely black wardrobe. I marked the date on my calendar and remembered to wear a neutral blue shirt.

Matters had improved by the time I reached high school, but every year, I imagined walking into school on the Day of Silence to face an entire group of people visibly protesting my very existence. Being an openly LGBTQ or allied student could be intimidating on the other 179 days of the school year, but an entire day dedicated towards raising visibility for our issues made me feel like I had a target on my back. My high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance prepared for the Day of Silence for weeks in advance, planning our shirts, ordering bracelets, and talking about what to do if we encountered harassment or violence. During my senior year of high school, our GSA opted to create matching Day of Silence shirts in black, to represent the legacy of black shirts being used to threaten and silence our fellow LGBTQ students.

I was incredibly fortunate to never have experienced anything like the trauma that LGBTQ and allied students from McGuffey High School have been forced to cope with. These students are facing the nightmare that kept me awake every night before the Day of Silence. Institutional change is necessary to end this blatant discrimination and hatred.

There is no easy fix to the deeply embedded problems of homophobia, transphobia, and violence in our schools, but McGuffey School District administrators, faculty, and staff have the ability to take a meaningful stand against discrimination in their district. I urge the McGuffey School District to implement policies which support LGBTQ students and to responsibly report and intervene in incidents of bullying, harassment, and violence. Solely reacting to this situation is not enough. The McGuffey School District must be proactive in changing policies and holding themselves accountable in order to prevent this bigotry from occurring again.

Four Pennsylvanians Honored in the 2015 Trans 100

The 2015 Trans 100 honorees were announced on Sunday, March 29th, at the annual live celebration in Chicago. The Trans 100 celebrates the work of 100 influential transgender activists and advocates from across the country. The event was hosted this year by Chicago trans activists Precious Davis and Myles Brady, with Keynote Speeches from GLAAD Senior Media Strategist, Tiq Milan, and film director Lana Wachowski. Violinist Tona Brown, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, and rapper Rocco Katastrophe performed.

Four Pennsylvania leaders in the trans community were honored this year:


Trans 100 - Copy (2) ——————– Turner Stulting
Lewisburg, PA
Turner is a trans youth activist, President of Bucknell University Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and the Assistant Director of Common Ground, a student-led diversity immersion retreat. Turner has worked in various capacities with the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. Ze served as State Operations Co-Chair of the 2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference: Igniting a Pennsylvania Youth Movement for Trans* Justice and Freedom, the 2014 Convener of the PSEC Coordinating Committee, and the 2014 Summer Policy Fellow. Last May, Turner interned with the Triangle Project, an LGBT rights organization in Cape Town, South Africa, assisting with the monitoring of hate crimes that LGBT people experienced in the Western Cape.Turner was the recipient of the 2015 Mara Keisling Leadership Award from the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. Ze is currently beginning research on the implications of socioeconomic class difference on transgender college students.
Trans 100 - Copy ———————- Samantha Jo-Dato
Philadelphia, PA
Samantha is the Coordinator of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the world. Samantha has served as a Committee Member for the annual Philadelphia Trans March and worked to launch the Mazzoni Center’s Trans Wellness Project in 2013.
Trans 100 - Copy (4)———————- Dr. Rachel Levine
Middletown, PA
Dr. Levine is the acting Physician General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the highest ranking openly transgender public official in Pennsylvania history. Prior to her appointment, she served as chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Trans 100 - Copy (3)———————- Jayden HC Sampson
Norristown, PA
Jayden is an organizer of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. He serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for Gender Reel, a coast-to-coast film and performing arts festival highlighting the experiences and identities of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Jayden previously served on the Board of Directors of the Attic Youth Center and the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia. He first came to Pennsylvania to practice law as a Public Defender.

The 2014 Trans 100 honored four Pennsylvania leaders as well: A. Dionne Stallworth (Philadelphia), Charlene Arcila (Philadelphia), Shay(den) Gonzalez (Philadelphia), and Michael David Battle (Pittsburgh).

The inaugural Trans 100 list in 2013 honored five Pennsylvanians (those from Pennsylvania, and those currently residents): Allsyon Robinson (Jermyn), Che Gossett (Philadelphia), Jenny Boylan (Valley Forge), Mara Keisling (Harrisburg), and Van Nguyen (Philadelphia).

Body of Missing Pittsburgh Man Recovered in Ohio River

Pittsburgh Police announced at a press conference at 7:45 PM this evening that a body recovered in the Ohio River near Follansbee, West Virginia, has been identified as Andre Gray, a 34 year-old Pittsburgh man who was reported missing in October. Gray was an active member of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ community, and his disappearance has been closely monitored by community members.

Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide. Pittsburgh Police reported that a preliminary autopsy showed that Gray sufferer a gunshot wound. Because he initially went missing in Pittsburgh, the case will continue to be investigated by the Pittsburgh Homicide Unit. Police reported that they are investigating all leads, but no warrants have been issued in connection with the case, and no suspects are in custody.

Gray’s mother, Victoria Gray-Tillman, expressed relief that her son’s body was recovered, and said that her family can now have closure regarding his disappearance.

The Keystone Student Voice will continue to follow this ongoing situation and will provide additional updates shortly.

What Mike Fleck’s Loss Means to Me















When I first heard the news that Representative Mike Fleck lost his seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I felt a profound sense of defeat that went beyond just losing an election. The outcome of this election represents a loss for the people of the 81st District, and a major loss for one of the most underrepresented and disenfranchised groups of people in Pennsylvania: rural LGBT youth.

I grew up in Shippensburg, a small town that sits on the border of Franklin and Cumberland counties. I spent my teenage years questioning my sexuality and taking my first steps in LGBT activism. My school district was generally affirming, and my parents were always accepting of how I chose to express myself. But, I never for a minute considered sticking around in Shippensburg, or anywhere even close. I wanted to get out at the first chance I had. I even kept a list of cities: Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia. As far as I was concerned, there was no place for me in rural Pennsylvania. I never saw a positive example of an LGBT person in a rural area. If you heard anything about an LGBT person nearby, you could be certain it was bad news. The first positive message I ever received about a rural LGBT person was when I learned that Rep. Fleck had come out as a gay man in December of 2012.

Representation matters, especially representation in government, for two big reasons. The first reason is pretty obvious; an LGBT person in government is more likely to support measures that help improve the lives of LGBT people. Beyond just policy though, local politicians are respected members of their community. Having a gay man in a position of respect within a rural area is groundbreaking. LGBT people in rural communities are not told that they matter. Their identities are not celebrated or affirmed. They lack access to services, to community, to almost every resource that an urban LGBT person has. Having just one openly gay rural politician in Pennsylvania was a huge step forward.

Rep. Fleck’s loss in the 2014 election is a sign that it is not yet acceptable to be an out gay man in rural Pennsylvania. It is a huge blow to the state of Pennsylvania, where you can be fired for having a picture of your legally recognized same-sex wedding on your desk at work. It sends the message that no matter how hard you work on behalf of your community, the majority of your neighbors will not consider you fit to represent them.

Victoria in Huntingdon

Victoria Martin in Huntingdon, PA (November 4, 2014)

Rep. Fleck lost this election because he is an out gay man. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would tell you otherwise, but the facts are hard to ignore. When I see a candidate who ran for three terms with no opposition, who has years of experience in leadership, who was endorsed by a former governor, small business associations, education associations, and the National Rifle Association, and then I see that candidate lose to a county treasurer who couldn’t bother to turn in his paperwork for the primary election on time, I see a race that was motivated by bigotry, not reason.

This is a huge setback for the LGBT equality movement in rural Pennsylvania, but that certainly doesn’t mean that this is the final chapter. Far from it. Rep. Fleck’s loss is a sign that we have significant work left to be done in Pennsylvania. While Philadelphia is ranked as the most LGBT friendly city in the country, just outside the city a person can lose their home, their job, and their dignity for being open and honest about their identity.

I am tired of rural LGBT people suffering. I want to see rural LGBT people thriving. I want to see rural communities where diversity is embraced and differences are celebrated. I want to see the end the stigma of being an LGBT person in a rural area, and I want to see the end of the idea that you can only live an authentic life as an LGBT person in a city.

I am proud to be a queer rural Pennsylvanian. I am proud to be a supporter of Mike Fleck. I am ready to continue this fight for equality, and I am ready to work even harder to change bigoted attitudes and to empower rural young and LGBT people. I am looking forward to a future where every LGBT person can live a life of dignity, in any part of the country. The road ahead is a long one, and there will be more setbacks and challenges, but we will win. Today is the perfect time to start.

Whitpain Township Passes Resolution in Support of LGBTQ Equality

Whitpain Township officials passed a resolution confirming their support of LGBTQ equality measures in the Pennsylvania Legislature on March 18, stating that they are in favor of any action or legislation “to ensure that all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and are afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing, public and private contracts and the use of public accommodations.”

The resolution was first discussed at a February 18th meeting, when Supervisor Ken Wollman proposed that the township pass an LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. The Times Herald reported that fellow board members were supportive of LGBTQ equality measures, but felt that the issue was best left up to the state government. The board’s operations committee then began drafting the resolution to urge the state government to take action.

Whitpain is located within Montgomery County, in close proximity to Norristown. Montgomery County officials announced in March of 2013 that they are currently exploring the possibility of passing a county-wide LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination ordinance.

Had Whitpain passed an LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, it would have been the 34th municipality in the state to do so. A non-discrimination ordinance was passed in Downingtown on Wednesday, March 19, making it the 33rd municipality in the state to protect LGBTQ citizens in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The Top 13 Wins and Setbacks of LGBTQ Pennsylvania in 2013

2013 was a historic year for the national LGBTQ justice movement. In Pennsylvania, we had an extremely productive year filled with local and state policy wins. We also experienced devastating violence and setbacks both from within and toward the LGBTQ community. Here, the KSV highlights 13 of the most captivating stories of LGBTQ Pennsylvania in 2013!

Philadelphia Adopts Strongest Local Trans Rights Law in the Nation

Councilman Jim Kenney (Center) speaks at a Committee hearing on the ordinance
(PGN/Scott A. Drake)

Philadelphia City Council adopted what has been hailed as the strongest local protection law for transgender people in the United States. The bill, introduced by Councilman Bill Kenney, was adopted in April 2013 with a 14-3 vote. It includes sweeping reforms for the city: two new tax credits for employers which provide trans-friendly healthcare insurance coverage, a requirement that all new and renovated City-owned buildings have gender-neutral bathrooms, a provision which prohibits businesses from not allowing patrons to use the bathroom facilities which are consistent with their gender identity, the removal of gendered terms from city forms, and a prohibition of employers denying their workers the right to dress in a way consistent with their gender identity. The City of Philadelphia once again received a perfect 100 in the LGBTQ-friendliness rating by the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

FAIL = Anti-Transgender Discrimination in School: Issak Wolfe and Kasey Caron

Issak Oliver Wolfe

Issak Oliver Wolfe

Red Lion Senior High School student Issak Oliver Wolfe faced horrible transphobic discrimination from his school district. Issak’s school in York County denied him the opportunity to run for Prom King, tried to not allow him to go to prom with his girlfriend, was forcing him to wear a girl’s gown for graduation, and insisted upon reading his former name at the commencement ceremony. Through his advocacy in challenging this discrimination, he attended his prom with his girlfriend and wore the male gown for graduation. His former name was still read when he walked across the dais.


Kasey Caron

In September, a similar incident occurred in Johnstown at Richland Senior High School. Kasey Caron was denied the opportunity to run for Homecoming King by his school because he is transgender. He organized with community leaders and students to protest this decision, and brought national attention to the lack of resources for LGBTQ students within his district. Though the school board would not allow Kasey to run for Homecoming King, he was able to establish a GSA at his school, creating the first GSA in the Johnstown area.

WIN = Pittsburgh Adopts Equal Benefits Bill for City Contractors

The Pittsburgh City Council adopted an ordinance on July 23, 2013 that will require all city contractors receiving over $250,000 from the City to provide equal employee benefits for same-sex couples. Out Councilman Bruce Kraus introduced and led the passage of the legislation, which was unanimously adopted. Philadelphia adopted a similar ordinance in 2011.

FAIL = Equality Federation Shames and Silences Pennsylvania LGBTQ Youth

PSEC Constitutional Convention 2011In July, the Equality Federation removed the Executive Director of PSEC from an open community meeting on nondiscrimination in Harrisburg, simply for arriving to the meeting as a young person. This was the first time a national organization participated in such an adultist action in Pennsylvania. The Equality Federation had no public comment following the incident.

WIN = Governor Tom Corbett Comes Out to Support LGBTQ Nondiscrimination

CorbettIn December, following the Pennsylvania Society’s annual gala, Governor Tom Corbett announced his support for the nondiscrimination legislation that would protect LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. It was reported in the Philadelphia Gay News that his public statement was the result of a meeting spearheaded by PGN’s Mark Segal following the slew of anti-marriage equality remarks he made earlier this year. Every Governor since 1975 has re-authorized Gov. Milton Shapp’s executive order banning discrimination against LGBTQ state employees (the orders were limited to sexual orientation until Gov. Ed Rendell’s re-authorization in 2003 – and have since been inclusive of gender identity as well).

FAIL = Rep. Mike Fleck Shoved Into Closet by Victory Fund

Fleck_NY Times

Rep. Mike Fleck
(The New York Times)

It was revealed in a December interview with Rep. Mike Fleck in the Philadelphia Gay News that he was strongly urged by the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to remain in the closet until 2013. The Keystone Student Voice and Washington Blade reported further on this situation in revealing their actions were potentially motivated by a former board member who was running for a Pennsylvania House seat on the explicit platform of being the first openly gay state legislator. If Rep. Mike Fleck came out before the new legislative session began in 2013, he would lose the title. Both now-Rep. Brian Sims and the Victory Fund provided vague public statements to the Washington Blade and neither outright denied that these actions took place.

WIN = PASS Act Backed by an Equally Bi-Partisan 98 Co-Sponsors

Truitt Banner
The PA Safe Schools Act, HB 156, secured a total of 98 Co-Sponsors in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – with 49 Republicans and 49 Democrats. The PASS Act is a critically needed anti-bullying bill to strengthen our state’s weak and antiquated safe schools law. This is the most number of co-sponsors on any safe schools bill in state history.

FAIL = Bucks County Schools Fail LGBTQ Employees:
FAIL = Holy Ghost Preparatory Fires Teacher;
FAIL = Central Bucks Denies Equal Employee Benefits

HolyGhostABCNewsA suburban Philadelphia all-boys Catholic High School terminated the employment of Michael Griffin when he applied for a New Jersey marriage license with his longtime partner. Griffin, who is an alumnus of Holy Ghost, was a very popular teacher at the school. While the administration was aware of his sexual orientation over his 12 year tenure, they deemed his getting married as unacceptable. In response, the petitions were launched and LGBTQ Catholic students across Pennsylvania wrote joint letter to the school in support of Griffin.

Central Bucks School District, centered on Doylestown, initially denied the request of a teacher to include her wife on her school sponsored health care insurance. The teacher had legally wed her wife in Delaware in 2013 – and the district had adopted a nondiscrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation almost a decade earlier. Many residents of Central Bucks were outraged at the School Board’s decision and spoke out at several meetings. The Board reversed their decision in December and will no offer equality employee benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

WIN = Pittston and Bristol Adopt Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances

PittstonThe City Council of Pittston, in Luzerne County, unanimously adopted a LGBTQ inclusive local nondiscrimination ordinance on May 28, 2013. As well, the Borough Council of Bristol in Bucks County adopted an inclusive ordinance on September 9, 2013. This now brings the total number of Pennsylvania municipalities with this ordinance to 32, which covers 31% of the state population.

HB 300 and SB 300, the leading LGBTQ nondiscrimination bills in the General Assembly, were introduced in August 2013 and have a record number of co-sponsors – totaling 94 House members and 25 Senate members.

WIN/FAIL = Boy Scouts Accept Gay Youth, Continue Ban on Gay Adult Leaders

KevinThe Boy Scouts of America voted on May 23, 2013, to end their controversial policy banning openly gay scouts from the organization. The new resolution reads, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”  Over 60% of the 1,400 delegates in the National Council’s voted to remove the ban. The change will take effect on January 1, 2014. The ban on gay adult leaders is still in effect.

WIN = National Center for Transgender Equality to Hire Pennsylvania Organizer

Mara-FinalThe National Center for Transgender Equality announced that they will be hiring a trans rights organizer for Pennsylvania, who will start in January 2014. This is the first time Pennsylvania will have a transgender justice-specific organizer on the state level.

= Federal Marriage Equality Suits Filed in Pennsylvania;
WIN = Why Marriage Matters PA Launched

ACLUFollowing the US Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality of Pennsylvania’s “mini-DOMA.” The 23 plaintiffs sued several parties with state and local governmental agencies, including the Governor and Attorney General. AG Kathleen Kane declined to defend the state in this case in July, and the Governor was replaced as a defendant in the case with the State Secretary of Revenue in the fall. A trial date has been set for June 2014 in the US Circuit Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, located in Harrisburg.

In December 2013, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Freedom to Marry joined forces to launch the Why Marriage Matters PA campaign to support education and outreach across the state in anticipation of the trial. Over 100 community organizations across the commonwealth have endorsed the campaign.

Several additonal marriage equality cases were filed in Pennsylvania following the historic Supreme Court decision. One of them involves Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes, who began issuing marriage licensees after the federal court issued its ruling. He was eventually barred from doing so by the Commonwealth Court, and those that were already issued are have been considered invalid. However, his case is currently being appealed in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Who We Gained

It was a big year for celebrities coming out, and our already open national icons championing monumental advancements toward justice. Pennsylvania is not shy in being the home state of many famous LGBTQ people. Here are a few who shared with the world who they are in 2013.

MariaBelloMaria Bello
Born and raised in Norristown, Montgomery County, Bello came out as in a relationship with a woman in a powerful editorial published in the New York Times. Maria is an alumna of Archbishop John Carroll High School, in Radnor, and Villanova University – both in Delaware County.

WentworthWentworth Miller
Although he was born in England, the Prison Break star graduated from Quaker Valley Senior High School in Sewickley, PA. He moved to the Pittsburgh suburb for high school and has roots in the state. Wentworth came out in September in the process of refusing to attend an event in Russia due to its harsh anti-LGBTQ laws.

Edie Windsor

Edie Windsor
(The New York Times)

Edie Windsor
A native Philadelphian, Edie rocked the nation this year with a triumphant victory in the Supreme Court as the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down. She graduated from Girls’ High School and Temple University in Philadelphia, before moving to New York City.



While Raven is technically from Atlanta, Georgia, she spent her childhood portraying Olivia Kendall on the Cosby Show,  whose creator and star, Bill Cosby, is a fierce Philadelphian. Raven recently finished her Broadway debut, starring as Deloris van Cartier in the Sister Act on Broadway, which is set in Philadelphia. After years of speculation and pushing away the media from her personal life, Raven came out without fanfare through Twitter in August.

JennyFinneyBoylanJennifer Finney Boylan
Jennifer Finney Boylan, a long-time GLAAD Board Member and transgender rights advocate, was appointed as the Co-Chair of GLAAD this fall. She is one of the first trans people to helm a Board of Directors of a national LGBTQ organization. Boylan was born in raised on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia, and is currently a professor at Colby College in Maine. She is a national bestselling author and regular contributor to several major media outlets including the New York Times.

Who We Lost

We faced another devastating year of violence against LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.


Vigil for Kyra Cordova in 2012
(Justice for Kyra)

In July, we mourned the loss of 31 year old Diamond Williams. She was a transwoman who was brutally killed in Philadelphia. Charles Sargent, 43, has been charged for her murder and is in police custody.

During the early morning hours of October 6, 2013, Ben Stoviak was the target of violence outside the Remedy Bar in Pittsburgh. His story was shared across the nation as an upsetting case of street harassment and an example of a hate crime.

There were also multiple assaults this year in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. In October, a 29 year old woman was violently raped, beaten, and robbed. In the same week, on the same block of 1200 St. James Street, Nick Forte was severely bashed and robbed outside Voyeur nightclub as he was heading home. Two men, including a former Voyeur employee, have been charged as the assailants.

The Keystone Student Voice wishes you a fantastic New Years,
and a 2014 that advances Pennsylvania toward the justice of all.

Governor Corbett Announces Support of LGBT Nondiscrimination Legislation

Governor Tom Corbett recently announced his support of HB 300, an amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act which will provide protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. This statement may come as a surprise to Pennsylvanians, as Corbett’s opposition to same-sex marriage has been well publicized over the past year.

The Philadelphia Gay News reported that a meeting was held in October between Corbett and Mark Segal, publisher of PGN, and representatives of several LGBTQ organizations, including the HRC and the PERSAD Center in Pittsburgh. Segal said that Corbett’s administration has been discussing publicly supporting the bill for the past three years. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Corbett said he previously believed the federal government protected against LGBTQ discrimination, despite having served three terms as Attorney General.

Corbett was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit between the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the state government over the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage. When asked about his position on marriage equality in August, Corbett first compared it to a marriage between twelve year olds, before retracting that statement in October and saying, “It was an inappropriate analogy, you know… I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?” Corbett issued an awkward apology video after his comments went viral, and said he meant to compare only the legal stature of same-sex marriage with incest. Corbett was released as a defendant from the lawsuit in November, and has stayed quiet on the matter since then. He reiterated in his interview with the Inquirer today that he still does not support marriage equality.

Corbett’s support on HB 300 is not entirely unprecedented; he renewed the Schapp Order, which protects state government employees from discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. In 1974, Governor Milton Shapp signed an executive order banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation in state employment, making Pennsylvania the first state in the country to have any form of employment protection based upon sexual orientation. In 2011, Ohio’s Republican Governor, John Kasulich, allowed a similar executive order to expire, and later renewed it without protection based upon gender identity.

Regardless of Corbett’s support for HB 300, the law is unlikely to go anywhere while it is in the State Government Committee, chaired by Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, an outspoken opponent of any legislation in support of LGBTQ individuals. Corbett reportedly shrugged and said he did not know how to overcome Metcalfe’s stalling of the bill when asked by the Inquirer.

Corbett is far from the first Republican Governor to support LGBTQ inclusive  nondiscrimination legislation. Wisconsin was the first state to protect against discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation in 1982. Republican Governor Lee Dreyfus signed the bill into law, despite a religious fundamentalist campaign urging him to veto the bill, citing the “fundamental Republican principle that government should have a very restricted involvement in people’s private and personal lives.”

This announcement comes four days after the annual gathering of the Pennsylvania Society, a weekend seen by many state leaders as one of the most important barometers to measure support for political candidates. Corbett’s approval ratings have steadily dropped through 2013, and his administration is likely anticipating an uphill battle for reelection. When the Pennsylvania General Assembly concludes session today, the state legislature will be on winter recess until January 7. When legislators return to Harrisburg in 2014, advocates will be able to access the impact of Corbett’s statement of support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination.

Catholic Students Across PA Unite to Support Michael Griffin

Disappointment continues to roll in from across the nation regarding the actions of Holy Ghost Preparatory School’s administration in terminating the employment of foreign language teacher Michael Griffin. Mr. Griffin was fired last Friday from the Catholic high school in suburban Philadelphia for obtaining a marriage license to wed his partner.

Father McCloskey, the school President, released a statement saying that the school had “no choice,” but to terminate Griffin, because his decision to marry, “contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment.”

In response, LGBT community leaders from Catholic universities across Pennsylvania have written an open letter Father McCloskey and Principal Danilak of Holy Ghost, asking them to reinstate Mr. Griffin. The Catholic students criticized the Holy Ghost administration for treating Griffin in a a way that “does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” and implored the school to “embrace all who devote themselves to the fullness of moving the gospel messages of love and charity to children and the whole world.”

Griffin’s termination has caused outrage among Pennsylvanians, and brought attention to the absence of a nondiscrimination law protecting LGBTQ employees. However, as Holy Ghost is a private religious institution, it is unclear whether a nondiscrimination law would have protected Griffin. The Supreme Court ruled in January of 2012 that nondiscrimination laws do not protect employees of faith-based institutions which perform religious duties.

Former Holy Ghost student, Dan McQuade, criticized the school in an Op-Ed for Philadelphia Magazine:

The school was happy to have him when it could pretend he wasn’t gay, though Griffin says he and his future-husband sat with the school’s president, Jeff Danilak, at a school event. But as soon as it felt it received an official notification, McCloskey said he needed to act.

Bensalem resident and Treasurer of the PC Alliance, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s LGBTQ group, John Fox, said he was “surprised” by the school’s decision. “Bensalem is not known for these kinds of actions. It’s an open minded town.”

“The call to change our legal system includes the moral imperative to change our culture as well. To affirm the human dignity of LGBTQ individuals, the Catholic community must grow in acceptance and in love.” said Jared Schaaf, Convener of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, a student at Gannon University, a Catholic university in Erie.

A message was posted to the school website Monday by Father McCloskey, which said, “We acknowledge that this decision has been difficult for everyone… We regret the pain that this has caused to any and all involved.” Father McCloskey stated that the administration will keep the school community informed at they “move forward.”

If you are Catholic student in Pennsylvania, whether LGBTQ or an ally, please sign the letter below urging the Holy Ghost Administration to reinstate Mr. Griffin, and move towards a more inclusive and affirming school community. The KSV will not post names that do not have both the full school name and class year.

Of the 26 Roman Catholic colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, 18 currently have an active LGBT student organization. LGBT and ally students at Catholic schools are increasingly finding and building safe spaces on their campus with growing support from faculty and staff. Many of the LGBT student organizations at these schools were formed in the past few years.

**Please note, the lead signatories of the open letter in no way represent the LGBTQ student organizations they helm at their universities,
but have signed on as individuals**

Catholic Students of Pennsylvania: Sign the Open Letter to Holy Ghost!
  • Your Name*First and Last Name
  • Email Address*Your Email Address
  • Catholic Colleges and Universites*Select Your School
  • College/University Graduation Year*Expected or Past Graduation Year
  • Catholic High Schools*Please Type the Full Name of Your School
  • High School Graduation Year*Expected or Past Graduation Year
  • 6

Catholic School Students Across Pennsylvania

Brian Franchuk – University of Scranton ’15
Rebecca Taylor – King’s College ’14
Gabe Romero – King’s College ’15
Julia A. Ramsey – Conwell Egan Catholic School ’99
Amanda Fritschi – Duquesne University ’14, Trinity High School ’11
Daniel Simpson – King’s College ’13
Jared Schaaf – Gannon University ’15
Jesse Harvey – King’s College ’14
Michael Thomas – Archbishop Carroll High School ’05
Vanessa Cherry – Gannon University ’15

Joseph Gnahoui-David – Gannon University ’16
Zak Westfall – Gannon University ’16
Nicholas Ramsey – Conwell Egan Catholic School ’04
Jessica Kluck – Venango Catholic High School ’05
Meghann Taft-Lockard – La Salle University ’17
Caitlin Hammar – La Salle University ’14
Casey Schu – La Salle University ’17, Mount Saint Joseph Academy ’13
Andrew J. King – La Salle University ’17
Amanda Vogel – Chestnut Hill College ’15, John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School ’11
Patrick Herbert – Holy Ghost Preparatory School ’12
Veronica Hamilton – La Salle University ’17
Nicole Benzing – St. Joseph’s University ’14, Mount de Sales Academy ’10
Halee Burke – St. Joseph’s University ’16, Peninsula Catholic High School ’12
Erin McGrody – St. Joseph’s University ’17, Nazareth Academy High School ’13
Luigi Nunez – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Scarlett C. – St. Joseph’s University ’16, Academy of the Holy Cross ’12
Will Johnson – St. Joseph’s University ’16, Gonzaga College High School ’12
Andrew Nguyen – St. Joseph’s University ’17, Saint Louis University High School ’13
Jeannette-Marie Kelley – Holy Family University ’84, Nazareth Academy ’80
Beatrice Ayoub – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Raymond Lubrano Di Caruozzo – St. Joseph’s University ’17, Salesianum ’11
Liz Wardach – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Leyla Capitelli – Villa Joseph Marie High School ’90
Madison Donchez – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Jenna Harrison – St. Joseph’s University ’13
Christina Flynn – St. Hubert’s High School ’00
Eli Mancini – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Kesle Ffrench – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Gerry Gormley Rudewicz – Bishop Conwell High School ’78
Kayla M. Walker – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Terrell Mills – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Theresa Ta – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Catherine Murphy – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Amanda Matrisciano – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Elizabeth Krotulis – St. Joseph’s University ’17, Saint Rose High School ’13
Elizabeth Picca – St. Joseph’s University ’17
Reilly Igo – St. Joseph’s University ’15
Rae Coleman – St. Joseph’s University ’16
Nam Nguyen – Mercyhurst University ’16
Erin R. Mussett – Gannon University ’15
Jessica Johnson – King’s College ’14
Elizabeth Nawrocki – Villa Maria Academy ’12
Jodi Tunstall – Conwell-Egan Catholic High School ’91
Therese Stadelmeier – Conwell-Egan Catholic High School ’78
Emily Abramowicz – Archbishop Wood High School ’12
Joanna Lipniarska – La Salle University ’16
Kelly O’Brien – Nazareth Academy High School ’09
Christian O’Brien – St. Joseph’s University ’13
Catherine Elorette – St. Joseph’s University ’14, Academy of Saint Elizabeth ’10
Summer Rollins – St. Joseph’s University ’14
Jade Marie Nesbitt – St. Joseph’s University ’15


Post Photo Credit: Michael Griffin

Suburban Catholic High School Terminates Gay Teacher For Marrying Partner

The same day he applied for a marriage license with his same-sex partner, foreign language teacher Michael Griffin was fired by the administration at Holy Ghost Preparatory School, in Bensalem. A graduate of Holy Ghost himself, he had taught at the Bucks County school for twelve years. Griffin said he emailed the principal, Jeffrey Danilak, to inform him that he might be late to an in-service day on Friday, as he was applying for a marriage license in New Jersey. Following the in-service, Griffin was asked to meet with the school principal and President, Father James McCloskey.

At the meeting, Father McCloskey said to Griffin, “It’s not really a secret here that you’re gay… I assume this is a same sex marriage.” Griffin was then told that if he was to go through with the marriage, he would be terminated.

His partner, Vincent Giannetto, told 6-ABC Action News, “We applied (for a marriage license) this morning and on the same day he’s fired from his job. So it kind of flipped things upside down for us.” Griffin said that he did not believe he would be fired for getting married.

Bensalem resident and Treasurer of the PC Alliance, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s LGBTQ group, John Fox, said he was “surprised” by the school’s decision. “Bensalem is not known for these kinds of actions. It’s an open minded town.”

Anti-LGBT discrimination at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania is unfortunately not new.


Rev. James St. George

In 2011, Chestnut Hill College, located in Northwest Philadelphia, terminated adjunct professor Rev. James St. George upon learning that he was gay. The Catholic institution received a firestorm of criticism from communities and media across the country. The Rev. St. George eventually secured a teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania.

Holy Ghost is a private religious institution, and is exempted from nondiscrimination laws. Even if the Bensalem Township Council, Pennsylvania General Assembly, or the United States Congress adopted legislation to include sexual orientation as a protected class, under the current nondiscrimination laws the school would be untouchable by governmental authorities.

The work to end discrimination against LGBT people in religious institutions must be approached systemically within the faith community itself.

Last month, nearby Central Bucks School District garnered controversy for failing to cover same-sex partners and spouses in their employee health insurance policy. After a series of school board meetings, Central Bucks announced last week that they would move to extend spousal benefits for legally married couples.