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Equality Forum Begins Thursday

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Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Equality Forum kicks of its free annual Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered summit tomorrow.

Over the past 20 years, Equality Forum expanded its programming from PrideFest Philadelphia a weekend event involving 15 organizations– to what it is today, a four-day global summit of educational programming designed to enhance understanding issues that are specific to the LGBT community. This year, the summit includes 30 panel discussions, art exhibits, workshops, parties and other events.

“We have a national legal panel, a politics panel, a panel of elected gay officials, a panel on transgender rights,” says Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum founder. “The entire waterfront is being covered. We have a national youth panel which has three openly young gay elected officials, one the mayor Holyoke, MA and one the treasurer of our state Capitol in Harrisburg.”

Lazin says some of the most powerful thought leaders — both gay and straight — on LGBT civil rights issues will provide expertise.

“The religious panel has on it the Very Reverand Gary Hall, he is the dean of the national Cathedral in Washington, arguably the most prestigious church in the country,” says Lazin. “He is straight and he has said he will marry gay couples in the National Cathedral.”

And this year, there’s a special focus on Cuba, which is the featured nation for the summit. Cuba’s history on LGBT rights began in the 1960s when Fidel Castro began incarcerating gays. The country has since evolved, offering gender reassignment surgery for free.

“Fidel has publicly apologized for his civil rights abuses,” says Lazin.

The longest standing gay art exhibit will be on display at the William Way Community Center in Center City and will feature the work of Vuth Lyno, from Cambodia’s art scene.

Events run May 2nd through 5th. Highlights include the International Equality Dinner honoring former Congressman Barney Frank and SundayOUT- a night of Dancing on the Piazza in Northern Liberties.

All events are open to the public and most are free. For more info and a full schedule, go to equalityforum.com.