Philly’s New Historical Marker Honors LGBTQ Activist, State’s First Marker Dedicated to Latinx Person

On Friday, officials unveiled Philly’s newest historical marker. Honoring LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez, the marker is the first in Pennsylvania to honor a person of Latinx descent.

The William Way LGBTQ Community Center nominated Casarez for a marker last year. While the marker was approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, erecting the plaque was pushed back to this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year of delays, the marker now stands outside Philadelphia’s City Hall.

Elicia Gonzales, who worked with Casarez at both the Mazzoni Center and at GALAEI, told Billy Penn that the new marker was especially important given the recent painting over of a mural of Casarez in the Gayborhood. “This feels important because of the incredible slap in the face that the community got with the tearing down of her mural. It feels really important that now there’s some sort of permanent structure where folks can go and pay respects and just remember the fight that she had in her,” Gonzales said.

Casarez dedicated her life to LGBTQ issues and advocacy for unhoused people. She helped found the Philly Dyke March, started the homeless outreach group Empty the Shelters, and was Philadelphia’s first director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Casarez was also instrumentally in helping pass Philly’s LGBTQ rights bill in 2013 and in the fight to remove gender stickers on SEPTA passes.