Earmark for Philly LGBTQ center pulled over ‘kink’ parties

Earmark for Philly LGBTQ center pulled over ‘kink’ parties

Confusion reigned Wednesday after an earmark for a Philadelphia LGBTQ center was pulled from a spending bill making its way through Congress.

Democratic Pennsylvania Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey withdrew their support for a $1 million renovation project and requested earmarked funds for the William Way LGBT Community Center be removed from a housing and transportation government funding bill Tuesday. The requests came in letters to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ranking Member Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

The Senate removed the spending project from the bill the same day, after a viral post by the far-right social media account Libs of TikTok criticized the center for allowing a group that holds monthly BDSM, kink and fetish parties for adults to use its facilities.

In a statement, William Way said “sexual behavior” is not permitted in its meeting facilities and event spaces and said the earmark was removed “as a result of lies and distortions about our Center shared by political extremists.”

Casey, who is fending off a competitive challenge in his bid for reelection this year from Republican David McCormick, told The Hill on Wednesday the earmark was pulled because of “new information.”

He did not specify what new information drove him to drop his support for the project, but a source close to the situation said Casey decided to remove the earmark after a conservative organization made the Appropriations Committee aware of the parties.

Fetterman on Wednesday said he was “horrified” by the letter sent by his office, which he claimed to have no prior knowledge of.

“I know that seems strange, but I wasn’t a part of that,” Fetterman told Business Insider.

In a statement Wednesday, Fetterman said the decision to pull the funds earmarked for the William Way LGBT Community Center was made to avoid “attacks” from Republicans.

“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,” he said. “The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans, and ultimately killed.”

Fetterman pledged to secure funding for the center in next year’s funding bills.

“The William Way LGBT Community Center has been doing critical work in Philadelphia for decades. I do not believe that we should penalize this center based on events that are entirely legal among consenting adults,” Fetterman added Wednesday, referring to the Libs of TikTok post. “I have no problem with what consenting adults do in their private time.”

“I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of TikTok,” he said.

Funding for William Way first made headlines in July, when House Republicans voted to eliminate funding for it and two other LGBTQ community centers in Massachusetts. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who led the charge to cut the centers’ funding, said financing the centers would be “problematic.”

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who also voted to eliminate funding for the centers, claimed some of them offered programming for young people that supports communism, drag shows and transgender health care.

“Appropriation also should be appropriate,” he said.

Fetterman, at the time, called the move “just flat out, mask-off bigotry” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. Later, when funding for the center was secured in spending bills approved by the Senate, Fetterman touted it as a personal victory.

“I’m particularly proud we were able to get the William Way LGBT Community Center funded after House Republicans stripped it out,” Fetterman said in November. “They must stop playing partisan games and get to work so we can deliver these investments where they are needed.”

Aris Folley and Alexander Bolton contributed reporting for this article.

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