40th anniversary of PA Council for Sexual Minorities was commemorated on April 12, 2016
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), in collaboration with the LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, presented 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, spoke, 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 discussed their experience on the Council, their accomplishments and the legacy of the Council. There was also a discussion of future LGBT public policy efforts.
A reception followed, sponsored by PGN, and included 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, 2016.
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 also commemorates 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 co-sponsored the event.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, is one of 25 historic sites and museums administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History. With exhibits examining the dawn of geologic time, the Native American experience, the colonial and revolutionary era, a pivotal Civil War battleground, and the commonwealth's vast industrial age, The State Museum demonstrates that Pennsylvania's story is America’s story.
For more information about the museum, visit www.statemuseumpa.org.