Right-wing backlash causes Philadelphia LGBT Center to lose federal funding

People dance on a parade float during the annual Pride Day Parade, Sunday June 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

By Sean Kitchen

March 6, 2024

The William Way LGBT Center was slated to receive $1 million in federal funding to help expand the center, but that funding was removed after a far-right, homophobic TikTok account targeted it.

Support for $1 million in federal funding for the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia has been withdrawn by US Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman after right-wing organizations targeted the center for renting to third party groups that host adult-themed gatherings.

The funding, which would have increased the center’s usable space and help purchase two row-homes, came into question after Libs of TikTok and other right-wing social media accounts attacked the planned funding on Wednesday after highlighting that the center hosts events for adults or “people aged 18 and up interested in BDSM, kink and fetish.”

“The William Way LGBT Community Center has been doing critical work in Philadelphia for decades,” Fetterman said in a statement.

“I do not believe that we should penalize this center based on events that are entirely legal among consenting adults. I have no problem with what consenting adults do in their private time.”

“Unfortunately, at the 11th hour my staff was made aware that funding for William Way, which was in the bill because I championed it, would not pass in the FY24 appropriations process. The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans, and ultimately killed. This is not the end of this fight and I am going to fight for William Way to secure their funding in the FY25 appropriations process.”

Fetterman went on to say, “I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of Tik Tok.”

Casey’s office explained that they withdrew support for the funding once Tuesday’s information came to light.

“Senator Casey has been a leader and ally in the fight to protect LGBTQ rights in the U.S. Senate and will continue to support the LGBTQ community in the Commonwealth,” a Casey spokesperson put in a statement.

“He believes that consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want in their free time, but these types of appropriations projects warrant the highest level of scrutiny on behalf of taxpayers. Senator Casey withdrew his request for federal funding when new information about the third-party use of the facility emerged.

House Republicans targeted the William Way Center in November when they removed funding for all LGBTQ related projects from a federal spending bill. Republicans removed funding for two LGBTQ centers in Pennsylvania and one in Massaschuests.

“Out of literally thousands of projects, the only three they went after were the three with LGBT or LGBTQ in the organization’s name,” Congressman Brendan Boyle said in an interview with the Inquirer in November. “This is as clear-cut a case of ugly bigotry as I’ve ever seen. It’s just outrageous.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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