Oct 8, 2021 - News

Philly LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez is still making history

Gloria Casarez in front of the rainbow flag at City Hall the first year it was flown for LGBT History Month.

Gloria Casarez in front of the rainbow flag at City Hall in 2010, the first year it was flown for LGBT History Month. Photo courtesy of Mitch Leff/John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center

A historical marker honoring late civil rights activist Gloria Casarez will be unveiled at City Hall Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Casarez — who's long advocated for the LGBTQ community, people of color and individuals experiencing homelessness — is the first Latina to receive this honor in Pennsylvania.

Bio in brief: Casarez was the first director of the city's Office of LGBT Affairs, a founder of the Philly Dyke March, and a leader of GALAEI — an LGBTQ and people of color-focused social justice group.

  • Other notable accomplishments include spearheading a bill that made Philly the first city to offer tax credits to companies providing domestic partner and transgender health benefits in 2013.
  • Casarez also helped remove gender stickers on SEPTA passes, and started the annual tradition of raising the Pride Flag at City Hall for Pride Month in June.

Flashback: The William Way LGBT Center nominated Casarez for the marker in 2019, roughly five years after she died of breast cancer. The center did so on behalf of the activist's loved ones.

  • The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the honor last year, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.
  • In January, a New York development company painted over a mural of Casarez on the old 12th Street Gym, sparking community outrage.
  • Local artist Tiff Urquhart responded by making an homage to Casarez just down the block, but that was torn down two days later, per Billy Penn.
  • Philly artist Simone Salib recently painted another mural in Casarez's memory at GALAEI.

What they're saying: "She was just tireless with everything she did," John Anderies, director of John. J. Wilcox, Jr. archives at the William Way Center told Axios. "She really poured her entire self into everything. She was just so constant and persistent."

  • Anderies said the timing is extra special because October is LGBT History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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