PENNSYLVANIA — State Rep. Dan Frankel announced Monday, 11 years after forming the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus to organize opposition to legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ people, that he would pass the reigns off to the growing group of lawmakers whose identities align with the caucus.
“Back then, the best way I could think of to be an LGBTQ+ ally was to organize likeminded colleagues to work closely with equality-driven advocacy groups – we were drastically outnumbered, but LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians were depending on us to fight for them, to help keep them safe and free from discrimination,” Frankel said. “Today, the best way for me to be an ally is to step aside and enthusiastically support the leadership of our LGBTQ+ lawmakers.”
State Sen. Katie Muth, who has served as co-chair for the caucus since 2020, joined Frankel in making way for new LGBTQ+ leadership.
“Pennsylvanians have steadily improved the diversity of the General Assembly, and each one of us should be advocating for a representative democracy,” Muth said. “It’s been a true honor to serve as chair, and I will never stop advocating for equality for our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors, but nobody knows what’s best for a community than those within it.”
Outgoing state Rep. Brian Sims was the first “out” LGBTQ+ PA legislator and caucus co-chair, and both Frankel and Muth praised the dedication he brought to the role.
Current LGBTQ+ Caucus members Malcolm Kenyatta and Jessica Benham will serve as co-chairs of the caucus in the new legislative session and will continue the work of fighting for legislation that will protect sexual and gender minorities from hate crimes, discrimination and harm from scientifically rejected “treatments” designed to change them.
Kenyatta thanked the outgoing chairs and vowed to keep up the battle to make Pennsylvania fair, welcoming and safe for all.
“Representative Frankel has been invaluable in the ongoing fight to make Pennsylvania a fairer place for all, and I know that the LGBTQ+ community continues to have a fierce ally in Senator Muth in our fight for equal rights under the law,” Kenyatta said. “To that end I’m thrilled to work with Representative Benham, a trailblazer and champion, as the next co-chairs of the Equality Caucus. This session, Harrisburg must finally deliver on long-delayed, non-discrimination protections, among other priorities — and we will work with both parties to get it done.”
Benham said that she hopes that the past work of Frankel, Muth and other allies, combined with the most diverse group of new legislators in history, will help the new chairs to get their long-fought legislative priorities to desk of Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro.
“I’m grateful to Representative Frankel for his dedicated allyship and years spent fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and I’m honored to serve as co-chair with Representative Kenyatta for the 2023-2024 legislative session,” Benham said. “Knowing that we will be joined by even more out members of the LGBTQ+ community in the House, I’m confident that this session will result in continued progress toward justice and look forward to fighting for much-needed change.”
Frankel and Muth praised Kenyatta and Benham as trailblazers, incredibly hardworking and driven by compassion.
“In their short time in office, they have both distinguished themselves as tough, determined and very smart – I’m excited to see those gifts on display in leadership roles,” Muth said.
Frankel first introduced the Fairness Act, which would provide civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people, as a freshman legislator in 2000. Over the years since, he has led opposition to GOP efforts to ban gay marriage in law, block state universities from providing same-sex benefits, and interfere with the rights of LGBTQ+ parents. He helped win passage of a bill to provide hate crimes protections to LGBTQ+ people in 2002, only to have the Commonwealth Court overturn it in 2008 due to a technicality.
“With every election, the Democratic Caucus gets closer to truly reflecting the diversity of our state, and that representation contributes to stronger, better and more inclusive legislation for the commonwealth,” Frankel said. “I want to make sure that Pennsylvanians of every stripe know that legislators that they identify with are at the table.”
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