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Jun 13 2007

Historic Philadelphia: GLBT Experience

It’s Liberty And Equality For All In Philadelphia

It’s only fitting that the city that created the American principles of liberty and equality for all would be the place where the rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are sought. Long known as one of the most tolerant cities in the country, Philadelphia has made history again and again at Independence National Historical Park, the site where the Founding Fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Here’s a look at the achievements that have been made in Philadelphia in the name of gay rights:



Annual Reminder:
An historical marker dedicated in July 2005 at 6th and Chestnut Streets is the first in the nation to acknowledge gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history. The blue and yellow marker approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission commemorates the Annual Reminder, the nation’s first significant gay rights demonstrations held in front of Independence Hall and led by pioneering gay activists every July 4 from 1965 to 1969. After the Stonewall Riots, the Annual Reminder moved to New York.

Although the marker doesn’t mention her by name, those in the know realize that Philadelphian Barbara Gittings was influential in planning the marches that paved the way for nationwide awareness-raising activities. Gittings, who moved to the city in the 1950s, was one of the nation’s most prominent gay activists. Most notably, she played an instrumental role in persuading the American Psychological Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. The gay and lesbian collection at the Independence Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is named after her.

To honor Gittings’ courage, as well as the Annual Reminder and the declared freedoms that became law at Independence Hall in the 18th century, the south side of Market Street in the Mall turns into a judging stand for the annual Gay Pride Parade & Festival every June. Held for the last three decades during International Gay Pride Month, the parade, which traverses more than 20 city blocks, is the Philadelphia GLBT community’s biggest annual event.

History with a Modern Day Twist:
One block away, the National Constitution Center aims to honor the constitutionally protected power of individuals like Giddings to influence policy and attitudes that foster a more inclusive society. The Constitution Center accomplishes this goal, in part, by examining the role the U.S. Supreme Court plays in establishing equal rights for all citizens. In a nod to the gay rights struggle, the center features information on the landmark 1996 Supreme Court decision Romer v. Evans, in which the Court ruled against an amendment to the Colorado State Constitution that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect homosexual citizens from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. In addition, visitors can periodically weigh in on the issue of gay marriage by writing their opinions on “sticky notes” and posting them on the Town Hall Wall, which fosters discourse on a rotating array of current issues that confront society.

Religiously Speaking:
Of course, religious tolerance forms a cornerstone of the nation’s constitutional protections, and as such, Philadelphia’s faith communities practice religious tolerance with a twist. Here, religious institutions actively engage in welcoming everyone who seeks to enter, regardless of their sexual orientation. Historic Christ Church in Old City is widely recognized for its outreach ministries to gay Christians, currently spearheaded by the Reverend Timothy Safford, who has devoted much of his professional life to working with gay, lesbian and HIV-positive populations. On the southeastern end of Historic Philadelphia, gay Jews can find spiritual solace at the Society Hill Synagogue, which encourages membership and participation by the GLBT community.

Shopping and Dining and Partying, Oh My:
For a taste of the modern “good life” after a day spent appreciating the progress made in the name of gay rights over the last 250 years, travelers can shop, dine, drink and dance at any number of actively gay-friendly establishments. For shopping, Old City’s Foster’s Urban Homeware is full of home décor items sure to become the talk of the party. The concept of the bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) bistro gets super charged at El Azteca, where diners bring their own tequila for flavorful margaritas. For a night of dancing, Shampoo sits just blocks from Independence Mall.

Hotel Package:
Not surprisingly, Philadelphia’s hospitality toward the GLBT community also extends into evening pursuits, as notably evidenced by a new hotel initiative sponsored by the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus. The Philadelphia Freedom Hotel Package promotes hotels that seek to attract gay guests by inviting potential visitors to book their overnight stays directly through The Best Western Independence Park Inn is one participating hotel that’s located directly within the borders of Historic Philadelphia.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside™ a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality. For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit or call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, at (800) 537-7676.

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  • Please Touch Museum and Centennial District – When it opens on October 18, 2008, the children’s museum’s new location in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall—a National Historic Landmark built in 1876 for the Centennial Exhibition—will boast three times more space for exhibitions and programs. Just outside the museum, kids and adults will also delight in riding the meticulously restored 1908 Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel. (215) 963-0667,
  • President’s House – Within close view of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, the President’s House Commemorative Site, to be erected in 2009, will mark the location of the nation’s