Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta speaks on the floor of the Pennsylvania House in support of a resolution commemorating Stonewall.
July 3, 2019
On the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta expected to speak on the floor of the Pennsylvania House about a resolution he introduced that commemorates the historical riots.
Instead, feeling “deflated,” he left the state chambers for an almost three-month summer recess alongside his colleagues with the resolution unheard, Kenyatta said.
The resolution honoring Stonewall was one of about 30 “noncontroversial” resolutions on the House’s uncontested calendar last week. These types of rulings are typically heard quickly by representatives without undergoing review by a committee, according to House rules.
The resolutions are common and often have to do with simple matters, like commemorating occasions like donut or milkshake days, or historically significant events like black history month and women’s day, Kenyatta said. Another resolution on last week’s noncontroversial House calendar called for recognizing July 17 as “Hot Dog Day” in Pennsylvania.
Kenyatta said he had gone back and forth on the resolution with Rep. Mike Turzai, the House speaker, after an initial draft was contested. But Kenyatta expected an opportunity to speak about the resolution Friday after rewriting the resolution and consulting with Turzai earlier in the week.
Kenyatta was then told minutes before the end of Friday’s session that his resolution was being newly anonymously contested and he would not be called to speak on it, he said.
But while other House members moved to correct votes or enter items into the record after the meeting, Kenyatta took up a microphone to mention the resolution.
“Unfortunately we could not get a resolution honoring the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, but I would like to say 50 years ago started a movement for the LGBT rights in this country because two transwomen of color stood up and said enough is enough,” video of Friday’s House session shows Kenyatta saying. “Their actions changed the course of history. So on today, that 50th anniversary, I would like to honor that legacy, honor Stonewall and keep fighting for a more fair Pennsylvania and country.”
Kenyatta told PGN on Monday that he brought the resolution to the House’s attention because he “thought it was important for the record on the actual day” of Stonewall.
“I’m not going to be silenced from acknowledging our history and acknowledging two black transwomen who started this movement,” Kenyatta told PGN. “Particularly at a time where black transwomen are being murdered yet again at historic rates.”
Last week, the final one before the Republican-controlled state legislature adjourned for summer, was dedicated to the House solidifying a $34 billion state budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which started July 1.
Christine Goldbeck, director of communications to the House speaker, said it is typical for the House to not bring up resolutions during budget week and it had “nothing to do with the subject” of the memorandum.
“When [resolutions] become something where we have to spend a historic amount of time, perhaps it’s time to revisit your policy and do better,” she said, adding, “If you’ve got 50 resolutions and 30 budget bills, it’s just a matter of keeping the focus of the legislature on budget week.”
Turzai told Kenyatta last week that, moving forward, he would instate a policy that all resolutions — noncontroversial or otherwise — would be reviewed by a committee during budget week, Kenyatta said. But this has historically been a common practice in the House, Goldbeck said.
Not having the Stonewall resolution heard in the House on the 50th anniversary of the riots was the “height of ridiculousness” and “speaks to the level of vitriol that people have towards our community in the House,” Kenyatta told PGN.
While the Stonewall resolution will not move forward, Kenyatta has bigger plans for the 51st anniversary next year.
“I’m actually going to push forward with trying to get a state holiday for Stonewall, to have Stonewall Day in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Let’s have this fight again.”