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Pennsylvania Governor Advocates For First Openly Transgender Physician General

Pending an upcoming confirmation by the state Senate, Dr. Rachel Levine could become Pennsylvania’s newest Physician General and the first transgender woman to hold the position. Prior to being submitted by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Levine’s decades long career included practicing pediatrics and psychiatry.

LevineShe currently serves as the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where she is also a professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

Levine, who is openly trans, became actively involved in the Pennsylvania trans community 10 years ago. Since then become a fixture in local queer student outreach initiatives as the liaison for LGBT Affairs to the Penn State Hershey Office of Diversity.

"You don't suddenly decide at 50-something that you're transgender,” Levine said of her coming out. “I think that it has helped me in terms of the LGBT community in terms of understanding what all the issues are, and I think I've been able to serve as a mentor and role model to LGBT individuals at the medical center as well as in the community."


Charges Against Philadelphia Gay-Bashing Trio Read In Court This Week

Philip Williams, Kevin Harrigan, and Kathryn Knott

Last September a trio of horrible people were arrested on charges of assaulting a gay couple in Center City, Philadelphia, resulting in the hospitalization of the gay couple.  Due to lack of LGBT protections in Pennsylvania the assailants cannot be brought up on charges of hate crimes, so they have been arraigned on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person (REAP). Phillip Williams and Kevin Harrigan are also charged with conspiracy.

Philadelphia Gay News reports:

A judge last month upheld all charges against the three, who have been out on bail since shortly after their Sept. 24 arrest. In the fall, Philadelphia adopted an LGBT-inclusive hate-crime law, but none of the defendants can be charged under it, since it was enacted after the incident. However, at last month’s preliminary hearing, assistant district attorney Michael Barry, who is prosecuting the case, emphasized that the suspects’ alleged anti-LGBT animus was a primary factor in the crime, and served as the basis for the conspiracy charge.

The trial isn't due to start until later this year, but we will be reporting on it once it begins.


Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Held On All Charges, Will Be Back In Court On January 6

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The three suspects accused in a heinous attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia on September 11 will stand trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other charges, Philadelphia Magazine reports. As previously reported, the defendants are 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams. Today's preliminary hearing was to determine whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof required to charge and try the defendants. Judge Charles Hayden Found they had:

The defendants, who previously pleaded not guilty and remain out on bail, appeared in the courtroom with their families, with Knott’s mother crying throughout many points of the proceeding. State Representative Brian Sims was also in attendance in the courtroom, which was crowded but not full.

Two witnesses testified today for the prosecution. Geoff Nagle observed the attack from a third floor window and stated that he heard "cursing and yelling in male and female voices, including language such as 'fucking faggot.'" The other witness was one of the two victims, Zachary Hesse:

Hesse said that when the pair encountered the group at 16th and Chancellor, Harrigan asked, "Is that your fucking boyfriend?" "I said, 'Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend," he testified. "'Do you have a problem with that?'" Then he testified that Harrigan said, "'So you're a dirty fucking faggot?' So I approached him and said, 'Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.' He pushed me, I pushed him."

Then Hesse says that he was surrounded by the group. "I was terrified," he testified. "It's scary to have people surround you, and your arms are being held."

Before closing the hearing Judge Hayden wished all of the defendants "good luck."

Formal arraignment for the plaintiffs is scheduled for January 6th.


Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Held On All Charges, Will Be Back In Court On January 6

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The three suspects accused in a heinous attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia on September 11 will stand trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other charges, Philadelphia Magazine reports. As previously reported, the defendants are 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams. Today's preliminary hearing was to determine whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof required to charge and try the defendants. Judge Charles Hayden Found they had:

The defendants, who previously pleaded not guilty and remain out on bail, appeared in the courtroom with their families, with Knott’s mother crying throughout many points of the proceeding. State Representative Brian Sims was also in attendance in the courtroom, which was crowded but not full.

Two witnesses testified today for the prosecution. Geoff Nagle observed the attack from a third floor window and stated that he heard "cursing and yelling in male and female voices, including language such as 'fucking faggot.'" The other witness was one of the two victims, Zachary Hesse:

Hesse said that when the pair encountered the group at 16th and Chancellor, Harrigan asked, "Is that your fucking boyfriend?" "I said, 'Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend," he testified. "'Do you have a problem with that?'" Then he testified that Harrigan said, "'So you're a dirty fucking faggot?' So I approached him and said, 'Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.' He pushed me, I pushed him."

Then Hesse says that he was surrounded by the group. "I was terrified," he testified. "It's scary to have people surround you, and your arms are being held."

Before closing the hearing Judge Hayden wished all of the defendants "good luck."

Formal arraignment for the plaintiffs is scheduled for January 6th.


Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Due In Court Today: VIDEO

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The trio of individuals accused in the September 11 assault on a gay couple in City Center, Philadelphia, are in court today for a preliminary hearing. The defendants, 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams, are accused of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and criminal conspiracy. All three have plead not guilty. 

From Philadelphia Magazine: 

Here’s what we can expect to happen: The case will be brought before a municipal court judge to determine if there was probable cause to arrest the suspects in September. Attorney for Kevin Harrigan, Josh Scarpello, tells me, “we won’t decide the truth of the matter in that first hearing. It is a probable-cause hearing to establish if the case should go to trial.”

If the case goes to trial — and if no plea bargain is reached — Scarpello suggests that there might not be a trial date until well into the new year. "The earliest would be February or March," he says. "If it's scheduled to be a jury trial, it could take even longer."

The AP also reports that the defendants contest the plaintiff's version of the assault: "Defense lawyers insist that both parties played a role in the encounter, and say the men's sexual orientation wasn't an issue." Despite these claims, reports have abounded that the fight was preceded by homophobic slurs hurled against the victims by the defendants. You’ll also recall the social media sleuthing done by activist Scott Wooledge who dug into accused attacker Kathryn Knott’s Twitter account and found a history of homophobic remarks. 

Social media played a large role in the case from the onset, with the individuals being identified by social media sleuths looking to hunt down the perpetrators of the heinous assault. 

The accused will not face hate crimes charges as Pennsylvania does not currently have hate crimes legislation on the books that covers sexual orientation. However, that may change if State Rep. Brian Sims and State Sen. Jim Ferlo have their way.

Watch a news report on the hearing, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Due In Court Today: VIDEO" »


Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding

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Retired 96-year-old Mennonite Pastor Chester Wenger of East Lampeter Township found his credentials dismissed on September 10 after the Lancaster Mennonite Conference discovered Wenger officiated his gay son's wedding on June 21 reports LancasterOnline. Pastor Wenger addressed the church and its decision in an open letter to The Mennonite, a Mennonite Church USA publication.

Wenger said:

"My dear companion of 70 years and I declare our enduring love for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, for the Mennonite Church, for the Meserete Kristos Church and for all God’s people. We carry no bitterness or regret for our actions. Our hearts are filled with love for all."

"I know persons will accuse me for my transgression, but my act of love was done on behalf of the church I love, and my conscience is clear."

L. Keith Weaver, a moderator from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, said in an email that the credentialing commission terminated Wenger's retired ministerial credentials after Wenger violated a Mennonite Church USA guideline that states, "Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant." The ceremony in question was held in the couple's backyard with a small handful of guests, and not in a Mennonite church reports LancasterOnline.

The ruling is raising discussions about church leadership regarding the ruling with Erin Stutzman, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, weighing in on the process of the church's decision making processes.

Stutzman wrote:

The differences in the Constituency Leaders Council largely reflect the variety of leadership practices within the 21 area conferences across our church who currently hold the credentials for their leaders. They do not all agree on what it means to be recognized as a minister across Mennonite Church USA, not just within the confines of a local church or area conference.

Many believe that while area conferences have authority to grant leadership credentials, they must do so in keeping with the written agreements made on the national level. In the current environment, that will affect the credentialing policies for persons who perform same-sex unions, or who are part of such a union. Others believe that area conferences should have freedom to interpret national polities as guidelines, not rules that govern practices regarding same-sex unions.

The Virginia Mennonite Conference ordained Wenger in 1949, at the request of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference for his missionary work in Ethiopia where he founded the Bible Academy of Nazareth. There he was the first elected chairman of Ethiopia’s Meserete Kristos Church, which is now the largest Mennonite church in the world. Pastor Wenger's service with the church spans 65 years.

Pastor Wenger's son, Phil Wenger who wed longtime partner Steve Dinnocenti in June, remarked he would have never asked his father to officiate at the wedding had he known the consequences.

Watch Phil Wenger's interview with WGAL Channel 8 news, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding" »


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