Metro Weekly

Senators Pull $1 Million in Funding for Philadelphia LGBTQ Center

Two Democratic U.S. senators pulled an earmark for the William Way Center in Philadelphia for allowing a kink group to use its facilities.

Bob Casey (Photo:, John Fetterman (Photo: Guillermo Romero via Flickr), and the William Way LGBT Community Center – Photo: Facebook

Pennsylvania’s two Democratic senators pulled $1 million in funding for Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center after it was revealed to have allowed a group that holds monthly BDSM, kink, and fetish parties for adults to use its facilities.

The anti-LGBTQ Libs of TikTok account criticized congressional funding for the William Way LGBT Community Center, noting that a kink-positive group known as The Aviary had used the center’s facilities to host monthly events since 2015. The Aviary describes itself as “Philadelphia’s friendliest and longest running kink and fetish party,” and encourages “players of all skill types” to come to the monthly “all inclusive” social event on its Eventbrite page.

BREAKING: The Senate Appropriations Committee released a spending bill which is being voted on tomorrow,” Libs of TikTok wrote in a March 5 post on X, tagging the accounts of U.S. Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman, who initially requested the earmark for the William Way Center.

“It includes $1M of your tax dollars to go towards renovating an LGBTQ Center in PA which boasts rooms to try BDSM and s*x f*tishes and hosts BDSM and s*x k*nk parties. There’s even a k*nk party happening there this weekend! … Absolutely sick that our tax dollars would fund this!”

The post went viral, with enraged conservatives and anti-LGBTQ activists complaining to the senators’ offices and media outlets about this alleged abuse of taxpayer money.

In response, both Casey and Fetterman withdrew their support for the $1 million earmark for the William Way Center, which provides a host of support services for LGBTQ people. The money was slated to help with renovation expenses.

“After further review, I am writing to withdraw my support and request the removal of the below Fiscal Year 2024 Congressional Directed Spending project included in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill,” Fetterman wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ranking Member Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), a screenshot of which was posted to X by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the national Republican Party.

Casey, who faces a tough re-election challenge this year from Republican David McCormick — who many Republicans believe would have won Fetterman’s seat in 2022 had he not been defeated in the primary by the Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz –told The Hill that he requested the removal of the funding based on “new information.”

He declined to explain what new information led him to pull his support from the William Way Center, but a source close to the senator told The Hill that the senator pulled his support after a conservative organization made the Appropriations Committee aware of the kink parties.

Fetterman later told Business Insider that he was “horrified” by the letter sent from his office, which he claimed to have no prior knowledge of, requesting the removal of funding for William Way, for which he had previously fought to restore after House Republicans stripped it, along with funding for two LGBTQ community centers in Massachusetts, from the appropriations bill back in November.

In a statement Wednesday, Fetterman said the decision to remove the earmark was 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 William Way in next year’s funding bills, reports Harrisburg ABC affiliate WHTM.

“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 said in his statement. “I have no problem with what consenting adults do in their private time.”

The first-term senator added, “I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of TikTok.”

The removal of the funding raises issues and questions about whether the kink and fetish communities should be considered part of the LGBTQ community and whether LGBTQ groups should seek to distance themselves from anything sexually tinged at a time when there’s a larger societal backlash against LGBTQ visibility. 

In a statement, William Way said that “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.”

The center seeks to “engage and support the diverse LGBTQIA+ communities in the greater Philadelphia area through arts and culture, empowerment, and community connections.”

It claimed that the $1 million would have allowed it to renovate and expand the existing building “into an inclusive, fully accessible, and welcoming space for all individuals to gather, learn, and receive support.”

This isn’t the first time that Republicans have attacked funding for LGBTQ initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was slammed by conservatives last month for appropriating $700,000 in funds for a pregnancy prevention program aimed at transgender males, including teenagers. Critics attacked both the idea that individuals can be transgender, and the involvement and intent to reach out to minors as part of the program.

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