Among other groups handing out free doughnuts and candy for Valentine's Day, Penn Democrats took the opportunity to table on Locust Walk to raise awareness of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
At the event, members of Penn Dems created posters reading, "I believe love is love," asking passersby to sign them on Thursday afternoon to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Penn Dems members say the tabling effort was especially significant in light of several national issues that have targeted the LGBTQ+ community.
In March 2018, President Donald Trump announced a policy banning most transgender individuals from serving in the military, a decision that the Supreme Court upheld in January. In October 2018, the New York Times reported that the administration was also considering narrowing the definition of gender and rolling back protections for transgender people.
Penn Dems Political Director and College sophomore Owen Voutsinas-Klose said the group chose to table on Valentine's Day to remind the Penn community that today’s climate is still hostile to the rights of LGBTQ+ people and to show love to the marginalized community.
“These are still issues we can’t forget about,” Voutsinas-Klose said. “You have an administration stacked with people who are very hostile to LGBT rights.”
Under Pennsylvania state law, discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation alone is not prohibited, which also led Penn Dems to want to raise awareness of the lack of legal protections in the state. More than 40 local governments in the state have passed ordinances banning these forms of discrimination in the public sphere.
The current political environment made it important to talk about these issues and continue advocating for people in the LGBTQ+ community, College freshman and Penn Dems member Aidan Mayer Ahearn said.
“It’s important that we don’t forget about how important it is to continue to advocate for the equality and equal rights for the LGBT+ community,” Ahearn added. “There is still far more that needs to be done.”
College freshman Jana Pugsley said the tabling effort was particularly important because of Pennsylvania's lack of protection for LGBTQ+ individuals under the law.
“It’s so important to show that all kinds of love are just as important,” Pugsley said. “[Pennsylvania] offers some of the least encompassing of anti-discrimination laws in the country."