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Openly gay journalist shot dead at home in Philadelphia

Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death

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Josh Kruger, shown here with his cat named Mason, was shot seven times & collapsed in the street after seeking help. He was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead. (Photo Credit: Josh Kruger/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – An openly gay journalist was shot to death in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning.

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Josh Kruger was shot at about 1:30 a.m. and collapsed in the street after seeking help. Kruger was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

Police said that Kruger was shot seven times throughout the chest and abdomen and that no weapons were recovered nor have any arrests been made. Homicide investigators noted that there was no sign of forced entry and the motive remains unclear.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement:

“Josh Kruger lifted up the most vulnerable and stigmatized people in our communities — particularly unhoused people living with addiction. As an openly queer writer who wrote about his own journey surviving substance use disorder and homelessness, it was encouraging to see Josh join the Kenney administration as a spokesperson for the Office of Homeless Services.

Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story. As with all homicides, we will be in close contact with the Philadelphia Police as they work to identify the person or persons responsible so that they can be held to account in a court of law. I extend my deepest condolences to Josh’s loved ones and to all those mourning this loss.”

The local PBS/NPR affiliate, WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, The Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

“He was more than just a journalist,” Kendall Stephens, who was a friend and neighbor of Kruger’s told CBS News. “He was more than just a community member. He was somebody that fought that great fight so many of us are not able to fight that fight because we’re too busy sheltered in our own homes wondering if someone is going to knock down our doors and kill us the same way they killed him. The same way they tried to kill me. And we’re tired of it.”   

Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death.

“He cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident in his public service and writing. Our administration was fortunate to call him a colleague, and our prayers are with everyone who knew him.”

The District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee issued the following statement:

“Many of us knew Josh Kruger as a comrade who never stopped advocating for queer Philadelphians living on the margins of society. His struggles mirrored so many of ours — from community rejection, to homelessness, to addiction, to living with HIV, to poverty — and his recovery, survival, and successes showed what’s possible when politicians and elected leaders reject bigotry and work affirmatively to uplift all people. Even while Josh worked for the Mayor, he never stopped speaking out against police violence, politicized attacks on trans and queer people, or the societal discarding of homeless and addicted Philadelphians.

“We are devastated that Josh’s life was ended so violently. We urge anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and prosecution for Josh’s murder to contact the Philadelphia Police or the DA’s Office directly. LGBTQ+ Philadelphians experience violence of all kinds every day; few people used their platforms to remind powerful people in government of that reality as effectively as Josh Kruger did. Josh and the communities he advocated for every day of his life deserve nothing less than justice and accountability for this outrageous crime.”

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Pennsylvania

Sen. Bob Casey: $400,000 for LGBTQ+ health & wellness center

The Mazzoni Center provided over 5,500 vaccines to patients for over 7,200 visits, including 100 patients every month receiving HIV meds

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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) at the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia June 6, 2024 (Capital-Star/John Cole)

By John Cole | PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) visited the Mazzoni Center on Thursday to announce $400,000 in community project funding for the center. 

“This community project funding will modernize the center’s basic equipment, like vitals machines or security systems, or air conditioning. It will also enable Mazzoni to purchase a generator,” Casey said.

“We know for many of our clients, this is the only place they feel safe coming for care,” Mazzoni Center executive development and communications officer David Weisberg said. He said the comprehensive health and wellness center is the largest LGBTQ nonprofit of any kind in Philadelphia, serving 15,000 clients a year, with a staff of 130.

Dr. Stacey Trooskin, executive medical officer at the Mazzoni Center, said the center provides medical care, including gender affirming care, HIV care, medication for opioid use disorder and primary care. 

“We are priding ourselves on being a one stop shop for all of our patients,” she said. 

Last year, the Mazzoni Center provided over 5,500 vaccines to its patients and lab work for over 7,200 visits, including more than 100 patients every month receiving HIV medication, Trooskin said, emphasizing that having access to electricity at all times is vital for the center to care for its patients. 

“We are incredibly grateful and quite relieved to have access to a generator that will protect us from service dysfunction,” Trooskin said. 

The federal money will also go to expanding its low threshold services for STI testing, HIV testing and viral hepatitis testing at their Washington West location, she added. 

“I’m just grateful to be here during Pride month to be able to announce some good news from Washington, which doesn’t happen every week,” Casey said.

Sultan Shakir, president and executive officer of Mazzoni Center said the funding will “make a real impact on our ability to provide culturally competent care to individuals who need it in our community.”

The funding was secured as a part of the Fiscal Year 2024 government funding bill.

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John Cole

John Cole is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He’s worked for various outlets such as The Northeast Times, PoliticsPA, and PCN. In these previous roles, he covered a wide range of topics from local civic association meetings to races across the commonwealth. He earned a degree in journalism from Temple University.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Pennsylvania Capital-Star and is republished with permission.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news site dedicated to honest and aggressive coverage of state government, politics and policy.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Philly drag queen story time achieves Guinness World Records title

The event was hosted by PGN, and sponsored by Visit Philadelphia. Several of Philadelphia’s most prominent drag performers were in attendance

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Philadelphia kicked off Pride Month on June 1 by achieving a Guinness World Record for ‘largest attendance at a drag queen story time reading’ at the National Constitution Center. (Photo: Stephanie Ramones for Visit Philadelphia)

By Gary L. Day | PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – “Today was an amazing day!” exclaimed Brittany Lynn.

The Philadelphia drag activist was referring to the just-completed drag queen story time held June 1 at the National Constitution Center, which officially established a new Guinness World Records title for “largest attendance at a drag queen story time reading.”

The event was hosted by PGN, and sponsored by Visit Philadelphia. Several of Philadelphia’s most prominent drag performers were in attendance to read to an enthusiastic crowd of children and their parents. Officials from Guinness were on hand to formally tally the attendance, which clocked in at 263.

Community response was heartening, given the last-minute nature of the announcement. Many attendees only learned about it via social media less than 24 hours in advance. The early hour was also a concern; things were scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m., when most drag queen storytimes are scheduled for late mornings or early afternoons.

Early arrivals had to pass through Constitution Center security, a necessary precaution given that drag queen story times have recently been frequent targets for disruption and threats of violence by right-wing extremists. Speculation filtered through the waiting crowd as to whether conservatives protesters would show up. But they never did, and events proceeded smoothly.

The reading was kicked off by PGN Publisher Mark Segal, who welcomed the crowd and explained the event’s goal of setting a Guinness world record. He then introduced the main attraction: Brittany Lynn.

Brittany Lynn, resplendent in huge hair and draped with a flowing, rainbow-sparkled cape, was greeted with a rousing ovation. She then began by reading the book “Hello Philadelphia” by Martha Day Zschock to a receptive audience. She was followed by several prominent local drag celebrities: Aurora, Icon Ebony Fierce, Athena Chanteuse and Morgan Wells. Other stories read included “Twas the Night Before Pride” by Joanna McClintick, “Elmer” by David Mckee, “The Family Book” by Todd Parr and “Kevin the Unicorn: It’s Not All Rainbows” by Jessika von Innerebner.

The crowd was enthusiastic and responsive throughout. One mother, Deniz, brought both her sons; the younger experiencing this type of event for the first time. 

“I’m so glad he gets to experience this,” she said.

Another mother, Stacey, who came with her daughter, marveled at the positive energy that was being shared. 

“It’s such a happy and loving atmosphere, so different from what’s out there these days,” she said.In a press release sent out by Visit Philadelphia shortly after the event announcing the success of achieving the Guiness record, Mark Segal was quoted saying, “Creating history-making moments like we’ve done today, hosted on land synonymous with our country’s fight for fundamental rights and freedom, serves as a powerful reminder of the resiliency, talent and culture that make up the fabric of our great American city.”

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Gary L. Day, Arts Contributor for PGN, is a produced playwright whose work has appeared in Dallas, New York and Philadelphia. In his diverse past lives he has been an editor, reporter, critic, comic artist, director, actor, designer, bar manager and sex show emcee. Now he’s just an office administrator for a stage equipment company in Center City.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Philadelphia Gay News and is republished with permission.

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PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus pushes to codify marriage equality

Enact legislation that would update current laws to remove “outdated, unconstitutional, and unnecessary sections of law”

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Sen. Carolyn Comitta speaks at a press conference in Harrisburg May 7, 2024 (Photo via Sen. Comitta’s office)

By John Cole | HARRISBURG, Penn. – Later this month, Pennsylvania will mark 10 years since a judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. But lawmakers and advocates say there’s still work to be done, and that it’s time to codify marriage equality protections into law. 

“Too often we have seen long held rights and freedoms vanish in the blink of an eye,” state Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) said at a press conference last Tuesday at the Capitol in Harrisburg, alongside fellow members of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The fact is, we cannot rely solely on the courts to fix the failings of our laws. There is just too much at stake.”

“We have the power to affirm this right,” she added. “And we must continue to advance equality for same sex couples, and all LGBTQ+ individuals in Pennsylvania.”

In May 2014, a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ended same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

Comitta and state Reps. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) and Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) have legislation currently before the House Judiciary Committee that would update current laws to remove “outdated, unconstitutional, and unnecessary sections of law,” in regards to marriage equality. They argue that this language still  present in Pennsylvania’s laws would ban same-sex marriage if both the state and national court decisions were overturned.

Ryan Matthews, Pennsylvania State Director of the Human Rights Campaign, cited a Public Religion Research Institute poll that found 66% of Pennsylvanians support codifying marriage equality into law. He said it was time for Pennsylvania’s legislature to follow the lead of President Joe Biden, who signed the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022.

“So when our allies stand up and introduce important legislation like this, we are here to thank them, but we’re also here to say to all of the other legislators that ask why is this an important step, to show that it is because of basic respect for us and our community that we need to be recognized and protected in law,” Matthews said.

Benham, who was the first openly queer woman elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, said legislation needs to go further in protecting marriage equality rights. 

“But I do think it is important, too, when we talk about marriage equality being the law of the land to recognize that there is a group of people who still do not have full access to marriage rights,” Benham said. “Until individuals with disabilities can get married without losing their Social Security, disability or health care benefits, marriage equality is not a law of the land for all.”

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John Cole

John Cole is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He’s worked for various outlets such as The Northeast Times, PoliticsPA, and PCN. In these previous roles, he covered a wide range of topics from local civic association meetings to races across the commonwealth. He earned a degree in journalism from Temple University.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star and is republished with permission.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news site dedicated to honest and aggressive coverage of state government, politics and policy.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Penn. trooper who arrested LGBTQ+ leader, no longer employed

The trooper had been placed on restricted duty following the incident and was not on patrol during the investigation of the incident

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Celena Morrison-McLean and Darius McLean, with their attorneys at a press conference Mar 7. (Screenshot/YouTube Associated Press)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The Pennsylvania State Police who executed a violent traffic stop on the morning of March 2, arresting Celena Morrison-McLean, executive director of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, and her husband Darius McLean on a Philadelphia expressway, is no longer employed by the State Police.

In a statement to multiple media outlets, Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Lt. Adam Reed said that the trooper, whose name has not been released, is no longer employed although Reed did not specify if the trooper resigned or was terminated by the agency.

According to Reed the trooper had been placed on restricted duty following the incident and was not on patrol during the investigation of the incident.

Appearing before reporters in a press conference on March 9, the executive director of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs accused the State Police trooper who executed a violent traffic stop last weekend involving her and her husband of racial profiling.

The couple alongside with their attorneys, said they’re considering a lawsuit following a violent incident in a traffic stop last weekend during which the couple alleges the state trooper unjustly pulled her over and arrested her and her husband because they’re Black. 

“Darius and I did nothing wrong and did not deserve to be treated the way we were treated during the arrest,” Morrison-McLean said. “At a minimum, the Pennsylvania State Police owe Darius and I an apology that is equally as public as the way they disregarded our rights on Interstate 76.”

In a police report, the trooper said McLean became verbally combative toward him, but the couple’s attorney, Kevin Mincey, said the trooper was the aggressor, claiming he pulled out his service weapon and forced McLean out of the car.

Mobile phone video of what followed went viral on social media. Morrison-McLean can be heard in the background screaming for her husband as the trooper cuffed him, who was on the ground at this point. She told the trooper that she worked “for the mayor”, to which he responded: “Shut the fuck up.”

“Darius had his hands up, window down and his hazards on,” Mincey said. “He explained, ‘I stopped because you pulled over my wife.’”

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Pennsylvania State Police alleged McLean refused multiple lawful orders from the trooper, who then arrested him. “There’s no resistance by Celena,” Mincey said. “No resistance by Darius.”

Morrison-McLean told the reporters gathered for the press conference: “I’ve never felt more helpless than in those moments. It’s disheartening that, as Black individuals, we are all too familiar with the use of the phrase, ‘Stop resisting,’ as a green light for excessive force by law enforcement.”

The Pennsylvania State Police spokesman also said that the agency will not have further comment on this incident.

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Pennsylvania school board reverses, reinvites Maulik Pancholy

Some of the speakers prior to the vote reportedly referred to the cancellation of the event as being based in homophobia

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In a 5-4 vote this past week, the Cumberland Valley school board reversed its decision to cancel an appearance and event on anti-bullying by openly gay actor and author Maulik Pancholy. (Screenshot/YouTube)

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Penn. — In a 5-4 vote this past week, the Cumberland Valley school board reversed its decision to cancel an appearance and event on anti-bullying by openly gay actor and author Maulik Pancholy after an hour-long meeting during which it heard considerable criticism from community members.

Pancholy, best known for his work on NBC Television’s 30 Rock and who authored “The Best at It,” a semi-autobiographical debut novel that explores the queer main character’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love in the 7th grade in a small Indiana town, was set to attend an anti-bullying school assembly scheduled for May 22 at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

However, anti-LGBTQ+ activists including newly elected board member Kelly Potteiger, who is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s listed extremist group Moms for Liberty along with board member Bud Shaffner and board chair Greg Rausch in an off agenda discussion brought up the event and strongly objected to Pancholy’s presence.

WPMT Fox 43 reported that Rausch asked Shaffner: “My only question is, do we even have any idea what he’s going to be talking about? I know he’s a homosexual activist and what have you and has written books and things like that but do we even know what he’s going to be talking about?”

Potteiger weighed in: “It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it and it did say that’s not the topic, but that’s what his books are about and he will probably talk about his pathway because he talks about anti-bullying and empathy and inclusion so part of that is his journey as an individual,” said Potteiger. “And as a self-proclaimed activist, that’s where it gets concerning I think.”

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age,” added Shaffner.

The board ended up in a unanimous 8-0 vote a week ago to rescind permission for Pancholy to visit the school. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in a 5-4 vote Wednesday, the school board reversed its decision after an hour-long meeting during which it heard criticism from community members, including LGBTQ + students impacted by the board’s earlier decision. Some of the speakers reportedly referred to the cancellation of the event as being based in homophobia.

In an Instagram post, the actor and author expressed his thanks to the board reversing course.

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Moms for Liberty member, others block Maulik Pancholy’s speech

“It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+ that they’re not welcome”

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Maulik Pancholy (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Penn. — On Monday the Cumberland Valley District school board, a large, rural and suburban public school district located in Central Pennsylvania, voted to cancel an appearance and event on anti-bullying by openly gay actor and author Maulik Pancholy.

Pancholy, best known for his work on NBC Television’s 30 Rock and who authored “The Best at It,” a semi-autobiographical debut novel that explores the queer main character’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love in the 7th grade in a small Indiana town, was set to attend an anti-bullying school assembly scheduled for May 22 at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists including newly elected board member Kelly Potteiger, who is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s listed extremist group Moms for Liberty along with board member Bud Shaffner and board chair Greg Rausch in an off agenda discussion brought up the event and strongly objected to Pancholy’s presence.

WPMT Fox 43 reported that Rausch asked Shaffner: “My only question is, do we even have any idea what he’s going to be talking about? I know he’s a homosexual activist and what have you and has written books and things like that but do we even know what he’s going to be talking about?”

Potteiger weighed in: “It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it and it did say that’s not the topic, but that’s what his books are about and he will probably talk about his pathway because he talks about anti-bullying and empathy and inclusion so part of that is his journey as an individual,” said Potteiger. “And as a self-proclaimed activist, that’s where it gets concerning I think.”

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age,” added Shaffner.

The board ended up in a unanimous 8-0 vote to rescind permission for Pancholy to visit the school.

The result of the vote led one former student, Tony Conte, to publish an open letter to Shaffner on Facebook, recalling his experience as a closeted gay teen and his struggles with suicidal ideation because of it, Entertainment Weekly reported.

On Thursday, Pancholy released a public statement on his Instagram regarding the controversial vote.

“On Monday evening, I learned via social media that the school board of the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania voted 8-0 to cancel my scheduled author visit with the students of Mountain View Middle School due to concerns about my ‘activism’ and what they called my ‘lifestyle.’ My heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students.” 

His statement continues, addressing his books and growing up without a representation of South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters in media. 

“When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter. When I talk about the characters in my books feeling ‘different,’ I’m always surprised by how many young people raise their hands- regardless of their identities and backgrounds- wanting to share about the ways in which they, to, feel different,” Pancholy continued. 

In a phone interview with Entertainment Weekly, Shaffner denied the claim that Pancholy’s sexual orientation was the reason for the vote.“That’s absolutely unfounded,” he said. “That wasn’t even part of the discussion. We simply voted to uphold the [school] policy of no political speeches, no political activism.”

He added, “We just cannot allow political speeches within our school. And he identified himself as a political activist.”

“I thought it was outrageous and very concerning,” Trisha Comstock, a parent who is behind a petition now circulating online, asking the board to reverse its decision told Fox 43. “It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+, that part of the community, that they’re not welcome, they’re not seen, they’re not respected.”

The full April 15 school board meeting can be watched here.

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Book event preemptively cancelled at another Pennsylvania library

The event was planned as a fundraiser for the Quarryville Library after Fulton Township revoked its funding

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Quarryville Library Center at 357 Buck Rd in Quarryville serves all of Southern Lancaster County. (Photo Credit: Quarryville Library/Facebook)

QUARRYVILLE, Penn. – An April book reading in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania featuring author Kevin Naff, the editor of the Washington Blade, and Nick Benton, owner and editor of the Falls Church News-Press, was canceled this week following bomb threats targeting the Lancaster Public Library this past weekend.

A previously scheduled Drag Queen Story Hour event to be held Saturday morning at the Lancaster Public Library, and co-hosted by Lancaster Pride, was abruptly cancelled after a suspicious package and multiple bomb threats that investigators categorized as “additional written threats via email were made.” 

Lancaster Pride in a Facebook Post noted:

“Drag Story Hour with Miss Amie in collaboration with the Lancaster Public Library has been canceled. The safety and well-being of our community are of utmost importance to us. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding.”

Lissa Holland, the library’s executive director, told LancasterOnline that she was “really sad, very disappointed and angry” about the cancellation.

“The library should be a place of safety. … And as I’ve told people numerous times this week like every book in the library is not for every person, every program is maybe not for every person. But we don’t censor,” she said.

Naff was scheduled to read from his book, “How We Won the War for LGBTQ Equality — And How Our Enemies Could Take It All Away,” at a Lancaster-area library event moderated by Benton on April 18. A library official declined to comment on the cancellation.

“I am disappointed by the cancellation but it was the right call given the recent threats targeting the LGBTQ community in Lancaster,” said Naff. “MAGA Republicans must dial back their rhetoric and their attacks on our community; they are dangerous and draconian and will cost lives.”

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The event was planned as a fundraiser for the Quarryville Library after Fulton Township revoked its funding because the library carries LGBTQ-themed books. 

“I think everyone is a little bit surprised. We are in a conservative area so everyone has their own beliefs but as the public library we are here to serve everyone,” interim director of the library Sarah Bower told WHTM News in November after the funding was canceled.

Johnny Weir, the Olympic figure skater and commentator, is from Quarryville and later donated $1,000 to the library. Weir was supporting Naff’s April 18 event and promoting it on social media. 

“It is a sad reality that fear generated by threats of violence that have escalated in the Trump era is stifling the public’s access to a free and open sharing of views, an outcome that is in absolutely no one’s best interest,” said Benton.  

Editor’s note: To donate to the Quarryville Library, visit: (Link

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“Drag Queen Story Hour” cancelled after multiple bomb threats

The event had drawn considerable opposition after Republican officials Commissioner Ray D’Agostino & Josh Parsons denounced the event

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Lancaster Public Library, 151 N. Queen Street, Lancaster, PA. (Photo Credit: Lancaster Public Library)

LANCASTER, Penn. – A previously scheduled Drag Queen Story Hour event to be held Saturday morning at the Lancaster Public Library, and co-hosted by Lancaster Pride, was abruptly cancelled after a suspicious package and multiple bomb threats that investigators categorized as “additional written threats via email were made.”

The Lancaster City Bureau of Police issued a statement in regard to the incident Saturday afternoon;

“At 9:19 a.m. on Saturday, a Lancaster City Police K-9 and Lancaster County Sheriff Deputy K-9 alerted their handlers to a suspicious package inside the Lancaster Public Library during a preplanned sweep. The Pennsylvania State Police bomb squad was immediately notified. The 100 block of N. Queen St. was closed and the businesses surrounding the library were notified.

After an extensive investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police bomb squad cleared the scene.  There are a number of reasons why the dogs could have alerted on it, but we cannot speculate on the cause as we do not have confirmation. We can confirm that the contents of the package were benign.

Subsequently, we received additional bomb threats via email of explosive devices planted in the areas of the 100 block of N. Lime and 100 block of N. Queen in Lancaster City as well as outside of our jurisdiction. An evacuation notice was immediately ordered, and the Lancaster City police took steps to secure the areas.  When it was deemed safe, K-9s were sent to the affected areas to clear the scenes. We can confirm that no explosive devices were found. The areas are now reopened, and there is no danger to the public at this time.” 

Christopher Paolini, who performs as Drag Story Hour with Miss Amie Vanité.
(Photo by Christopher Paolini)

The library put out a notification on its social media that read: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Drag Story Hour has been canceled, and the library will not open today. The safety and well-being of our community is of utmost importance to us.” The co-host of the event We regret to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, the Lancaster Pride event, Lancaster Pride in a Facebook Post noted:

“Drag Story Hour with Miss Amie in collaboration with the Lancaster Public Library has been canceled. The safety and well-being of our community are of utmost importance to us. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding.”

“Not only do bomb threats disrupt the peace and safety of our community, they waste valuable public resources. These threats trigger costly responses and stretch our resources thin, leaving our community vulnerable to genuine emergencies. Bomb threats will not be tolerated, and we are committed to identifying and prosecuting those responsible,” said Lancaster Police Chief Richard Mendez.

Lissa Holland, the library’s executive director, told LancasterOnline that she was “really sad, very disappointed and angry” about the cancellation.

“The library should be a place of safety. … And as I’ve told people numerous times this week like every book in the library is not for every person, every program is maybe not for every person. But we don’t censor,” she said.

According to LancasterOnline, the event had drawn considerable opposition after conservative elected Republican officials Commissioner Ray D’Agostino and Commissioner Josh Parsons denounced the event. In a statement to the paper, Parsons said that “libraries “should be places for kids to safely read and learn, not politicized social laboratories for woke ideology.” D’Agostino told the media outlet he thought there was a link between children being more “confused, anxious and stressed” than ever and people “trying to push adult-themed issues at such an early age.”

The Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition blasted comments from the two Republicans in a Facebook Post: “We want to be clear that drag story hours for children are NOT the same as adult drag performances,” the group said. The performer, the group said, “is a professional who has done other story hours for children. She dresses up in fun, whimsical costumes, sings age-appropriate songs, and reads age-appropriate books.”

Christopher Paolini, 38, who performs as Drag Story Hour with Miss Amie Vanité told the media outlet that he arrived at the library early to change into his costume and to avoid what was expected to be a mix of supporters and protesters who planned to gather outside ahead of the first show, scheduled for 1 p.m.

After Paolini arrived, representatives from the library and Lancaster Pride, the event sponsor, were waiting for Lancaster City Police officers to conduct a security sweep.

“I got there and started to unpack my stuff,” Paolini said. That’s when police told those inside the library to evacuate immediately after police K-9 had reacted to a package that was delivered on Friday.

He told the LancasterOnline “he believes that hosting story hour for children is too important for him to stop in the face of threats. But like others who organized the event, he’s not sure yet whether this one will be rescheduled.”

“It was supposed to be fun, and happy and great, and loving and caring kind—all the good things,” Paolini said. “And somebody had to go and create what was a safe space and make it dangerous, not just for children. But for everybody.”

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Philadelphia LGBT executive says state trooper racially profiled her

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it’s still investigating the incident and has not made a decision whether to pursue charges

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Celena Morrison-McLean and Darius McLean, with their attorneys at a press conference Mar 7. (Screenshot/YouTube Associated Press)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Appearing before reporters in a press conference Thursday, the executive director of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs accused the State Police trooper who executed a violent traffic stop last weekend involving her and her husband of racial profiling.

Celena Morrison-McLean and Darius McLean, with their attorneys, said they’re considering a lawsuit following a violent incident in a traffic stop last weekend during which the couple alleges the state trooper unjustly pulled her over and arrested her and her husband because they’re Black. 

“Darius and I did nothing wrong and did not deserve to be treated the way we were treated during the arrest,” Morrison-McLean said. “At a minimum, the Pennsylvania State Police owe Darius and I an apology that is equally as public as the way they disregarded our rights on Interstate 76.”

Attorneys for the McLeans told reporters that the couple picked had up a car Saturday from a family member in New Jersey, were driving in separate cars on the Schuylkill Expressway when a Pennsylvania State Police trooper pulled her over,

Pennsylvania State Police say the stop was conducted for multiple “vehicle code violations.” According to CBS Philadelphia, the trooper first approached McLean, who they said pulled up behind the trooper after his wife was stopped.

In a police report, the trooper said McLean became verbally combative toward him, but the couple’s attorney, Kevin Mincey, said the trooper was the aggressor, claiming he pulled out his service weapon and forced McLean out of the car.

Mobile phone video of what followed went viral on social media. Morrison-McLean can be heard in the background screaming for her husband as the trooper cuffed him, who was on the ground at this point. She told the trooper that she worked “for the mayor”, to which he responded: “Shut the fuck up.”

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“Darius had his hands up, window down and his hazards on,” Mincey said. “He explained, ‘I stopped because you pulled over my wife.'”

Pennsylvania State Police alleged McLean refused multiple lawful orders from the trooper, who then arrested him. “There’s no resistance by Celena,” Mincey said. “No resistance by Darius.”

Morrison-McLean told the reporters gathered for the press conference: “I’ve never felt more helpless than in those moments. It’s disheartening that, as Black individuals, we are all too familiar with the use of the phrase, ‘Stop resisting,’ as a green light for excessive force by law enforcement.”

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it’s still investigating the incident and has not made a decision about whether to pursue charges against the couple who were released.

 Pennsylvania State Police confirmed that the trooper in the traffic stop has been placed on restricted duty status and is not on patrol.

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Penn. state trooper in altercation with prominent LGBTQ+ leader

Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was pulled over by a state trooper

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File Photo Credit: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Police

By Lauren Rowello | PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – Video footage uploaded to Facebook shows an altercation between a state trooper and two prominent Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leaders. Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was pulled over by a state trooper on the Vine Street Expressway on the morning of March 2 and later detained by police.

Morrison’s sister told PGN that Morrison was pulled over “for not having their lights on while tailgating,” which a video of the encounter that Morrison recorded confirms. Darius McClean, Morrison’s husband and acting COO of William Way LGBT Community Center, was present during the incident and was also detained.

“My sister started recording when the officer became aggressive,” said Morrison’s sister, who uploaded the video to her Facebook. It shows a portion of the traffic stop encounter. It is unclear what occurred before Morrison started recording. Morrison’s sister said that McLean was following his wife’s car in a separate vehicle at the time of the stop and pulled over behind her during the traffic stop.

Morrison told her sister the officer “pulled him out of the car” then Morrison got out of her own vehicle to explain that McLean is her husband. 

“She started recording when the officer pulled his taser,” Morrison’s sister explained.

In the video, which is described in greater detail below, Morrison accuses the officer of punching her and drawing his gun on her. In the video, the officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

Philadelphia Police confirmed that Morrison and McLean were taken to Philadelphia Police Headquarters at 400 N. Broad St. Morrison’s sister says the pair was processed, charged with disorderly conduct, and detained until approximately 9 p.m. on March 2.

“My concern is over her safety since she is transgender,” Morrison’s sister told PGN. She is especially concerned with “the way the police officer charged at her for recording,” which can be seen on the footage. One commenter replied to the video on Facebook, “This is OUTRAGEOUS. This has to go straight to the governor’s office.”

What the video shows

The video begins with Morrison repeatedly stating, “That’s my husband,” to the officer who is seen kneeling on McLean’s back as McLean lays on the asphalt in fetal position in the rain. The officer tells him to put his hands behind his back. McLean says, “I don’t know why you’re doing this,” then frantically attempts to reassure Morrison by telling her, “It’s OK. It’s OK.”

Morrison repeatedly states to the officer, “I work for the mayor!” McLean appears to attempt to shield his face with one arm in fear as the officer cuffs his other hand. The officer hits McLean’s hand with a closed fist before pointing to Morrison. The officer yells, “Stay the fuck back!” while moving McLean’s hands to his back to finish cuffing.

McLean pleads for the officer to stop then says, “It’s because I’m Black.” The officer appears to respond, saying, “It’s not because you’re Black. It’s because you rolled up on me.”

The officer then lets go of McLean and approaches Morrison, saying, “Turn around,” before lunging toward Morrison with a grabbing motion. The camera is jostled at this time and points at the sky for the remainder of the footage. The officer yells, “Give me your hands or you’re getting tased!” while Morrison and McLean can be heard calling out in distress.

The officer says, “Stay right there!” to which McLean replies, “I am! I can’t go anywhere!” before trying to reassure Morrison again by saying, “Celena, it’s OK baby.” Morrison says she doesn’t know why this is happening and repeatedly states that they’ve done nothing wrong.

She then says, “He just punched me. He just punched me.” The officer appears to stand over McLean and Morrison as Morrison asks what’s going on and McLean cries out for help. The officer calls to dispatch that he has two people detained.

McLean says to the officer calmly, “I’m just getting my glasses.” The officer screams in reply, “Leave that right there!”

McLean says more frantically, “I just need my glasses,” and the officer shouts, “Don’t reach for anything!” Morrison reassures McLean, “Just be still.”

The officer says, “Stay right there! You move, you’re getting taken down.”

McLean is prompted to stand but says he can’t. Morrison says she’ll call the mayor’s office once this is over. When she stands, she asks the officer to pick up her phone. The officer says loudly, “This was a simple traffic stop because you didn’t have your lights on — you didn’t have your lights on and you were tailgating.”

McLean attempts to defend himself, “I wasn’t tailgating!” and the officer repeats, “Simple traffic stop,” to Morrison. The officer appears to tell McLean, “And I don’t know who you are, so I don’t need you rolling up on me.”

“You were about to tase me. You pulled your gun on me,” Morrison says. “Because you were fighting with me,” says the officer, which Morrison is heard denying. The officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

A response from Philadelphia and national leaders

Mayor Cherelle Parker released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that reads:
“​​Earlier today, a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper executed a car stop on the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia, reportedly for a Motor Vehicle Code violation. Celena Morrison, the City’s executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, was in the vehicle that was stopped.
A video circulating on social media that depicts a portion of the incident is very concerning to me, and I will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”

State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta addressed the incident in his speech at the Human Rights Campaign Greater Philadelphia dinner on Saturday evening. He emphasized the need for a thorough investigation.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign — a national organization that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community — also underlined the need for a thorough investigation, underlining to PGN that important details often get missed in these kinds of situations. She retweeted the mayor, calling the incident “disturbing.”

In her speech, she said, “When Philadelphia’s very own executive director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Celena Morrison, cannot even ride around the streets of Philadelphia without being harassed by law enforcement, we are in a state of emergency.”

Tyrell Brown, executive director of galaei, accepted an award on behalf of the organization they lead and informed the crowd during their speech that Morrison and McLean had just been released from police custody.

Brown told PGN that leaders from across the LGBTQ+ community and allies were working to “ensure that there is transparency and safety for these two very valued community members.”

They said that this situation demonstrates that an official title will not protect people from mistreatment — but that all people within the queer community need and deserve access to safety and support mechanisms without any barriers.

“The seconds that we miss could be the determination between life and death,” they said, highlighting the importance of working together to ensure that all members of the queer community can access resources that help promote safety and equity — “the same kind of decency and the same kind of reverence and respect that any other community deserves and has afforded to them.”

The Pennsylvania State Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Philadelphia Police Department directed PGN to their public affairs office, which did not appear to be open on March 2. An officer told PGN, “I have no comment at this time.”

This is a developing story.

The preceding piece was previously published by the Philadelphia Gay News and is republished with permission.

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