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LGBTQ-related earmark dropped from spending package amid furor

Pennsylvania Democrat says staff asked for project's removal without his approval

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is seen during votes in the Capitol on Jan. 23.
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is seen during votes in the Capitol on Jan. 23. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A $1 million earmark that would fund the renovation of an LGBTQ community center in Pennsylvania was stripped from the six-bill spending package under consideration this week after backlash from Republicans threatened to sink the legislation.

The earmark that would support Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center was initially included in the fiscal 2024 spending package, but has been removed from the latest list of “congressionally directed spending” projects. Republicans pushed for the funding’s removal after a conservative activist found a fetish group hosts a monthly party at the community center. 

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., one of the earmark’s sponsors, initially disavowed a March 5 letter sent in his name to Senate appropriators pulling support for the project’s inclusion in the package. On Wednesday, Fetterman said staff sent it without his knowledge. 

“It was sent out, and I wasn’t part of it,” Fetterman said of the letter. He later clarified in a follow-up statement provided by his office that it became clear that the package would not pass if the earmark remained part of it, so the letter was sent to allow for its removal. 

“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,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans, and ultimately killed. This is not the end of this fight and I am going to fight for William Way to secure their funding in the FY25 appropriations process.”

The earmark has been a target of Republican attacks since it was initially included in the House Transportation-HUD appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines in a July markup to strip the earmark, originally requested by Rep. Brendan F. Boyle, D-Pa., and two others providing funding to LGBTQ-related organizations.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also initially backed the William Way center project. Casey, who’s facing a potentially tough reelection fight this fall, officially withdrew his support for the earmark on Tuesday.

The earmark’s inclusion in the six-bill spending package again provoked GOP furor.

“The Schumer minibus has taxpayer-funded sex parties,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on X, referring to Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “I’m introducing an amendment to stop any federal funding of this nonsense.”

Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.

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