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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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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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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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Penn. Moms for Liberty chapter meets at a local diner & dissolves

Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter members had begun drifting away after the chapter’s preferred candidate lost badly

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The Starlite Diner at 233 North Route 100 in Allentown, Pennsylvania was the location for the last meeting of the Lehigh County chapter of Moms for Liberty on Feb.6, 2024. (Photo Credit: The Starlite Diner/Facebook)

ALLENTOWN, Penn. – A national group labeled as extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch for its anti-LGBTQ+ and race-centric book banning campaigns, coupled with electing school board members opposed to inclusivity and diversity, especially on trans issues, just lost a local chapter in Allentown, a city in eastern Pennsylvania.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, the chapter founder and head, Janine Vicalvi expressed frustration over the reality of having built the chapter membership to 200, seeing it dwindle to just three who met Tuesday night at The Starlite Diner at 233 North Route 100 in Allentown to formally dissolve the group.

“Between homeschooling and working two jobs, it’s just a lot,” Vicalvi told the Daily Beast. “And I guess there wasn’t as much willingness to do the work that’s required to propel the movement forward.”

The other two at the meeting felt the same and they voted unanimously to dissolve the chapter, she added.

The national organization had been birthed in Central Florida during the battles over shut-downs, mask and social distance mandates during the coronavirus pandemic. The group’s mission later expanded to include battles over LGBTQ+ students, classroom curriculum including so called ‘critical race theory,’ and especially trans issues focused on anti-trans rhetoric leveled at trans girls on sports teams and bathroom bans.

Photo Credit: Janine Vicalvi/Social Media

As the group rapidly expanded nationally and with membership politically aligned with the Republican Party, Moms for Liberty chapters sought and in many cases gained seats on local school boards.

In the case with the Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter, the Keystone, a Pennsylvania-based newsroom of local editors and reporters, reported in November that Moms for Liberty backed 130 school-board candidates across the country and won only one-third of their races. 

Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter members had begun drifting away after the chapter’s preferred candidate, a woman named Laura Warmkessel running for a seat on the Parkland School Board lost badly.

In other high profile Pennsylvania school board races, Democrats successfully swept those races in the Central Bucks and Pennridge school districts and won control of the boards after they became subject to a never ending stream of controversies.

Vicalvi also told the Daily Beast she shared the organization’s views on book banning.

“I think that most successful political movements are one-issue movements,” she said. “And unfortunately, parental rights is kind of amorphous. Everyone has a different idea of what parental rights looks like.”

That didn’t help morale. At the chapter’s holiday gathering in December, 20 moms showed up.“[But] January was low turnout. February was low turnout,” Vicalvi said.

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Pennsylvania

Restaurant in Philly gayborhood under fire for transphobic job listing

“There are very few places where LGBTQIA people can feel safe- To have this pop up in Center City is definitely distressing”

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Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar has been a favorite LGBTQ + neighborhood establishment for over 45 years in Philadelphia's Midtown Village. (Photo Credit: Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – A forty-five year old restaurant and bar in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ friendly Midtown Village came under fire this week after a job listing for a bartender stated that applicants for the position “must be biologically male.”

Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar, located at 1116 Walnut at 12th streets had posted a job listing ad to Craigslist January 24 which, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, advertised an opening for a “Male Bartender (Center-City Philadelphia)” at Moriarty’s. Under qualifications, skills, and requirements, it said: “Must be biologically male.” The ad has since been removed the Inquirer reported.

Celena Morrison-McLean, the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs told the Inquirer “This is extremely problematic and absolutely transphobic,” adding, “There are laws that say it’s illegal for employers to make decisions based on a person’s race, religion, gender, or sexual identity. This is the kind of thing that fuels a culture of people facing unfair treatment.”

Morrison also told the paper that her office will be reporting the posting to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

“We cannot send a message that this is OK,” she said. “That’s not how we operate in Philadelphia.”

Screenshots of a Craigslist ad for a bartender at Moriarty’s Restaurant.

Councilmember Rue Landau, the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve on Philadelphia’s City Council, told the Inquirer the job posting was in “clear violation of the Fair Practices Ordinance.” The city ordinance offers protections against unlawful employment practices. Violators can face fines, training, and compensatory damages.

“I am confident it will be an easy, open and shut case,” Landau said, of a potential investigation.

Deja Lynn Alvarez, the deputy director of World Health Care Infrastructures and a trans female blasted the restaurant in a Facebook post. She also told the Inquirer: “My first thought was ‘what the hell are they thinking?’ ” She added: “There are very few places where LGBTQIA people can feel safe and Center City is one of these places. To have this pop up in Center City is definitely distressing.”

Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar has not responded to requests for comment.

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Pennsylvania

Incoming Penn. school board chair takes oath on banned books

Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board

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Newly appointed Central Bucks Board of School Directors, Karen Smith, was sworn into office Monday. (Photo by Diana Leygerman/Twitter)

BUCKS, Pa. – Newly appointed Central Bucks Board of School Directors, Karen Smith, was sworn into office Monday, however, unlike other her newly sworn fellow Board members who placed their hands on the more traditional Bible, Smith opted to use a stack of books on LGBTQ+ themes and race that had been banned by the previous board.

Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election on Nov. 7 was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board. In her remarks she told the audience, “Thank you for your trust in me. I do not take this hand lightly. I feel it as a very heavy responsibility, and you have my word, I will do my best for everyone,” Smith said. “To my supporters, I am so very thankful. To those of you who have challenged me, I will do all I can to hear your voices and concerns.” 

Fox News and conservatives including the former GOP-majority board members labeled one of the books Smith used to be sworn in to office as ‘sexually explicit.’ That book, “Flamer,” written by openly gay author Mike Curato, received a Lambda Literary Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2021. Curato is a Filipino-American writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Fox characterized ‘Flamer’ as “It tells the story of a character who is bullied at a Boy Scouts summer camp for “acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men.” The graphic novel includes characters discussing pornography, erections, masturbation, penis size, and an illustration that depicts naked teenage boys.”

Journalist Chris Ullery reporting for the Bucks County Courier-Times newspaper noted:  Smith, named president of the board, and the other Democrats on the board have long cried foul as the former GOP-majority forged ahead with controversial library policy that critics said was a defacto book ban.

According to the Courier-Times, the book on top of the stack Smith was sworn in on was “Night” by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, which was part of a February controversy over books.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that a Central Bucks South High School librarian’s ninth grader sent him a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” said Wiesel.

The librarian included the quote along with a copy of Night in a library display; however, this was shortly after the former school board passed a “neutrality” policy that barred classroom displays advocating politics or social policy unless related to a lesson.

School officials at the direction of the former GOP-majority Board ordered the librarian to remove the display, though that order was rescinded the next day and the posters allowed. The incident went viral on social media generating a flood of criticism for the district, which later apologized and said it regretted the decision to remove the posters.

That neutrality policy, Policy 321, was one of four policies placed on a freeze by Smith and her colleagues when they took office on Monday.

In addition to ‘Flamer,’ the Courier-Times noted, Smith brought along three other titles she was prompted to read when they first appeared on the Woke PA list.

Donna Gephart’s “Lily and Dunkin,” a copy Smith borrowed from Holicong Middle School for Monday, follows the story of the friendship between two eighth graders, a transgender girl and a boy with bipolar disorder.

“Lily and Dunkin” was said to contain “strong sexual content” by Woke PA and some parents who complained to the district, a claim Smith told the Courier-Times gave her pause. 

“I read all the way through the book and there’s nothing. There’s not even a kiss,” Smith said.

The only reason Smith could determine for the “sexual content” warning was the fact that one of its main characters was transgender she said to the paper.

“Just the existence of a transgender student in the book was enough for some folks who want to challenge it, and it’s a beautiful story,” Smith added.

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