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September 19, 2015

Kenney asks Nutter to press pope on LGBT issues

Current mayor says he hopes to speak with Francis on topic

The likely next mayor of Philadelphia has urged the current mayor to push Pope Francis on LGBT issues during his visit to the city, and the latter says he'd like to – if given the chance. 

In an op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Gay News Thursday, Democratic nominee Jim Kenney, a Catholic, reinforced his position that he was "furious" with his church, and asked Mayor Michael Nutter to use the papal visit as an opportunity to speak out for the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Citing Obama's condemnation of Kenya's record on the issue during a recent trip to the country, Kenney wrote that while the papal visit is a big win for the city, officials should take the opportunity to stand up for the community.

As the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Philadelphia should send a signal that discrimination has no place in our borders. Being a good host doesn’t require being a doormat and, more importantly, being a good elected official means fighting for the rights of everyone you represent.

As Patrick Kerksta of Philadelphia Magazine points out, Kenney's criticisms of the church and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are well documented. 

Most recently, Kenney denounced the firing of a gay teacher at Waldron Mercy Academy, believing the archdiocese was behind the decision. 

In his piece, Kenney opens by saying a large LGBT Catholic group was barred from using a local church during the World Meeting of Families, which he believes was no mistake.

The organization was told it could not use the St. John the Evangelist Church parish center in Center City during the event because the archdiocese disapproved of its gender identity program, which included a presentation on homosexuality, and was to be led by a celibate gay man. 

Kenney also uses his op-ed to note that Nutter will most likely have private time to talk with Pope Francis, and wrote that he should use that time to stand up for the LGBT community.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Nutter told that the mayor did plan to bring up the issue if he got the opportunity: 

Nutter, also in a statement, said that if he has the opportunity for "a serious conversation with Pope Francis," he plans to "describe Philadelphia's staunch commitment to equality and inclusion of the LGBT community, our city's long history of support and love of diversity, and the important role that diverse peoples play in making this a great city.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has said that the LGBT community is welcome to the festivities, but it shouldn't use the event to push for issues that contradict church teachings. 

Pope Francis has spoken out against marginalizing or discriminating against the community, which has drawn some praise from Kenney, but has reinforced the church's position against gay marriage. 

On the one hand, Francis has said "who am I to judge?" concerning gay Catholics, while adding that homosexuality remains a sin.

The church's stance on LGBT issues is also an issue in Washington, D.C., where President Barak Obama's reception list for the pope includes activists from that community, which the Vatican has questioned.