SundayOUT! Fest celebrates ‘landmark’ year for LGBT rights

The SundayOUT! Fest at The Piazza at Schmidt’s wrapped up the 2013 Equality Forum, Philly’s annual LGBT civil rights summit.

Revelers at this year’s festival had plenty to celebrate – City Council just last week passed a landmark LGBT rights package.

If signed by Mayor Michael Nutter, the legislation will make Philadelphia the first U.S. city to offer tax credits to businesses who offer equally accessible health care to LGBT employees and their spouses and will extend health care protections to transgender city employees.

Executive Director Malcolm Lazin called the provisions’ passage “a wonderful way to start off the annual Equality Forum.”

“I want to thank Councilman Jim Kenney and all who made it possible for the legislation to pass,” Lazin said.

Attendee Meredith Deleski said she viewed the package as a landmark moment for LGBT rights in the city.

“It only helps me the more rights we get, so anything I can do to support that, I’ll do 100 percent,” she said.

Also in attendance was activist Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Castro was allowed to visit Philly for the event after, in a last-second decision, the U.S. Department of State reversed a travel ban and granted her a visa.

“Congratulations for your activism, for your wonderful work toward civil rights, LGBT rights,” Castro said to a roaring crowd.

“Congratulations – you are our inspiration, too.”

She then invited everyone to an afterparty – of sorts. “We are waiting for you in Havana [to] celebrate!” she said.

Not everyone was pleased by the event – several people with evangelistic organization Repent America protested in front of The Piazza, bearing Bibles and bullhorns.

“Don’t be a God hater!” one young man implored the crowd, urging them not to “die in rebellion before God.”

No one took the bait. “Everybody here accepts anybody,” reveler Molly Levine said.

“You can be whoever you want to be and no one will judge you.”


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