Democratic senators request funding cut for LGBTQ+ center after rightwing online attacks

Nov 4, 2023; Altoona, Iowa, United States; Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman speaks at the Iowa Democrats Liberty and Justice Celebration.
Nov 4, 2023; Altoona, Iowa, United States; Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman speaks at the Iowa Democrats Liberty and Justice Celebration. Photo: Rachel Mummey / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sens. Ben Casey (D-PA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations to request an end to a federal grant for the William Way LGBT Community Center after the LGBTQ+ organization came under fire from conservatives online. Now Casey is defending their request to cut one of the few grants for an LGBTQ+ initiative, something that House Republicans have been getting roundly criticized for, while Fetterman is blaming his staff for the letter.

The $1 million grant for the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ organization is part of the Transporation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The organization’s goal is to “seek to engage and support the diverse LGBTQIA+ communities in the greater Philadelphia area through arts & culture, empowerment, and community connections.” They say the funding would help them renovate and expand their building “into an inclusive, fully accessible, and welcoming space for all individuals to gather, learn, and receive support.”

But the William Way LGBT Community Center came under fire on Tuesday when hate influencer Chaya Raichik – who goes by “Libs of TikTok” online – accused it of hosting “rooms to try BDSM and s*x f*tishes.” She said the organization “hosts BDSM and s*x k*nk parties.”

“There’s even a k*nk party happening there this weekend!” she exclaimed, adding Casey and Fetterman’s handles to her X post to get their attention and calling the funding “absolutely sick.”

Raichik claimed victory yesterday after she found out about Fetterman’s and Casey’s letter.

“John Fetterman has rescinded his support to use taxpayer funds for the LGBTQ center which hosts s*x parties after Libs of TikTok Exposé,” she wrote.

Raichik is famous for her use of “stochastic terrorism,” or calling out targets for the extremists who follow her to threaten or attack, and Fetterman and Casey came under fire for appearing to bow to her tactics.

Fetterman’s office issued a statement saying that the William Way LGBT Community Center does “critical work in Philadelphia” and that he doesn’t believe that “we should penalize this center based on events that are entirely legal among consenting adults. I have no problem with what consenting adults do in their private time.”

The statement said that his staff decided that the funding would not make it through the appropriations process because it would be “attacked by Republicans and ultimately killed,” so he decided to beat Republicans to the punch and request to have the funding removed himself.

“I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of Tik Tok,” Fetterman said, even though he was the one who withdrew his request for the funding due to Raichik’s outrage.

According to Business Insider journalist Bryan Metzger, though, Fetterman’s staff sent the letter requesting the removal of the funding without his knowledge, and he didn’t support it.

“I wasn’t part of that, I wasn’t part of that,” Fetterman said about the letter in audio shared by Metzger. “Yeah, it came from my office, but it wasn’t part of my decision. It wasn’t my personal decision to do that.”

“It was a staff decision that was done, and it wasn’t brought to my attention at the time.”

Fetterman then told Metzger that the Democratic caucus should have a vote about that funding.

Casey’s office also released a statement yesterday about the funding, saying that “consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want in their free time, but these types of appropriations projects warrant the highest level of scrutiny on behalf of taxpayers.”

“Senator Casey withdrew his request for federal funding when new information about the third-party use of the facility emerged,” the statement said.

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