Tuesday, April 11, 2006
CHALK ONE UP FOR THE GOOD GUYS
Philadelphia's 12th Street Gym is the city's renowned "gay gym". 12th Street prides itself as a member of Philadelphia's gay community, is prominently located in a gay neighborhood and has long been rewarded with an overwhelming, loyal gay membership.
Many in the community angrily wondered why, then, the part owner of Philadelphias predominantly gay gym, Bob Guzzardi, would support politicians who attack the gay community. Posters raged on blogs and message boards, the Daily News Ronnie Polaneczky wrote about the issue in February. There were many calls for gays to cancel their 12 th Street Gym memberships, or at least make their frustrations known to the management.
Guzzardi, a real estate lawyer and property owner, first sparked criticism when it was discovered that he contributed almost $5,000 to extreme right-wing Senator Rick Santorum. However, he also gave funds to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Co), Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Co), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Ka), and others. Musgrave is the author of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have changed the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and Allard was the Senator who introduced it in the Senate. Brownback is an extreme-right wing figure who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. According to Liberty City, Guzzardi has given over $150,000 to anti-gay politicians and PACs.
Guess what happened.
The following story comes to us from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Gym boycott averted after news of sale
They won the battle without firing a shot.
A group of gay and Democratic activists yesterday turned the planned launch of a boycott of Philadelphia's 12th Street Gym into a victory rally after a change in the ownership of the business.
They had targeted the gym, popular in the city's gay community, to protest owner Bob Guzzardi's financial support of Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) and other conservative candidates and causes.
But Guzzardi defused the situation by agreeing on Friday to sell his share of the gym to co-owner Rick Piper, according to Piper and boycott organizers.
"In gay politics, we so rarely get to celebrate a victory, we didn't know what to do at first," said Kelly Groves, cochairman of the Liberty City Democratic Club, an organization of gay and lesbian activists. "This is big news for us."
Liberty City was joined by Philly for Change, a grassroots group that grew from Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, and Philadelphians Against Santorum, a group started by blogger/activist Ray Murphy.
Piper, who also has long been the manager of the 12th Street Gym, said that he had an agreement to buy out Guzzardi's interest, effective next month. He said the deal was struck because of the pending protest.
"Next month will mark 20 years that 12th Street has been an open, welcoming environment to all the communities we serve - a place without politics or pressure to be anything but yourself," Piper said.
Santorum has drawn ire from gay activists because of his opposition to marriage for homosexuals. In now-infamous comments in 2003, Santorum said states had the right to ban homosexual acts, just as they do incest, adultery, polygamy, and "man on dog" bestiality.
Shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday, about a dozen people patrolled the Center City sidewalk in front of 12th Street Gym. Many protesters carried signs, including one that declared the area a "Santorum-Free Zone." Activists also passed out wanted-style flyers demanding "Robert Guzzardi: Get Out of the Gayborhood!"
The flyer urged tenants of buildings managed by Guzzardi's company, Chancellor Properties, to call, fax or e-mail him to protest his support of "anti-gay causes" and Santorum.
Guzzardi declined to comment yesterday. Piper declined to disclose details of their transaction.
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said that controversy over Guzzardi had bubbled beneath the surface in activist circles for several years, but that the gym also had been a steadfast supporter of gay charities.
"This [sale] is a great success," but hardly surprising, Segal said. "If a good percentage of your business is gay and lesbian, and they're going to boycott you, it's a problem."
Murphy, the founder of the anti-Santorum group, said, "We're going to keep an eye out" to make sure Guzzardi does divest from the business. He said his political action committee hopes to boost voter turnout in Philadelphia to help defeat Santorum.
"This is going to send a message to other businesses that they might want to think twice," Murphy said.