James Kenney
Philadelphia Passes Sweeping LGBT-Inclusive Reform

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com October 28 2013 12:31 PM ET

A new piece of legislation aims to make Philadelphia one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world, according to Mayor Michael Nutter. 

The bill, which Nutter signed into law in May, mandates that all new or renovated city-owned buildings include gender-neutral restrooms in addition to men's and women's bathrooms, offers tax credits to companies that provide LGBT-inclusive employee benefits, amends the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to be inclusive of gender identity, and offers some relationship recognition rights for same-sex couples. 

"My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues," Nutter told NBC's Philadelphia affiliate, WCAU

The new law makes Philadelphia the first U.S. city to offer tax credits to businesses that offer health care benefits to workers' same-sex partners and their children, and the policy places a special focus on employers providing trans-inclusive health care, WCAU reports. The tax incentive program was supported by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, according to the TV station. 

The legislation also revises Philadelphia's nondiscrimination ordinance to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity, changes city forms and websites to offer input options for same-sex couples and transgender people, and extends medical and end-of-life decision-making rights to same-sex partners, WCAU reports. 

The legislation, introduced by City Council member and straight ally Jim Kenney, easily passed the council last month. 

"This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens," said state representative Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat who was the first openly gay person to be elected to state office. "It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city and we will continue to shine."

Sims also introduced a marriage equality bill last month. Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeastern U.S. that does not currently embrace marriage equality, nor does it provide civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other form of relationship recognition to same-sex couples.

A federal lawsuit is currently pending tbat challenges Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage, and while attorney general Kathleen Kane has said she won't defend the law she calls "wholly unconstitutional," Republican governor Tom Corbett has already filed legal briefs in defense of the antigay law, in which his lawyers claim that same-sex marriage is legally equivalent to marriage between 12-year-olds

When challenged on that comparison by a local news anchor earlier this month, Corbett admitted it was "inappropriate" and said "a much better analogy would have been brother and sister."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Brian Sims helped draft the language for the LGBT-inclusive policy, when in fact Councilman Kenney and allies in the city council concieved of and passed the bill in its entirety. The legislation was passed in May, not last week, as an earlier version reported. The Advocate regrets these errors.