The William Way Center says it’s gotten a lot of private support ever since the federal funding was pulled.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — The William Way Center in a Philadelphia neighborhood, commonly known as the Gayborhood, has served the LGBTQ+ community for more than 50 years.
Now, the center finds itself in the middle of a controversy on Capitol Hill. A far-right group alleges that the William Way Center would use federal funds to host sex parties.
The allegation has cost the center $1 million in federal funds.
“We’re disappointed, we’re outraged,” said Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way Center.
The funding would have come from a federal package with money earmarked for the William Way Center, but a right-wing group called Libs of TikTok accused the center of hosting sex parties while receiving federal funds.
The center’s executive director says it doesn’t allow such parties by any of the groups that rent out the space.
“We provide space for hundreds of groups a year,” said Bartlett.
One of those groups is The Aviary, which hosts what are known as ‘kink parties.’
“Almost anything could be a kink. A lot of people are into various forms of spanking,” said Gil Cnaan, co-founder of The Aviary, who also noted that the parties are supervised and alcohol-free.
“We always have an educational space set up. Then we have an open play space where you can try out a whole bunch of different things,” Cnaan explained. “You have benches you can put people over for spanking. You have places where you can tie people up and suspend them, but we also have a room that’s like blanket forts and coloring books.”
“We just want to make sure whatever you’re interested in learning, you can learn how to do it safely and well,” he added.
When asked if sex ever happens at those parties, Cnaan insisted it does not.
“There’s no sex at Aviary. It’s not only against the venue’s rules, but it’s also against my insurance company’s rules, and it’s not the party for that,” he explained.
It’s a point that would have been picked apart, according to Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman, who opted to remove the William Way Center from the funding package.
He released a statement that said in part: “The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans and ultimately killed.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey withdrew his funding request too, but for a different reason.
A statement from his office reads in part: “Consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want in their free time, but these types of appropriations projects warrant the highest level of scrutiny on behalf of taxpayers.”
“We have spoken to the offices of both our senators and we realized they were put in a very difficult position by these lies and distortions,” said Bartlett.
“If they didn’t lie about us, they’d lie about somebody else,” said Cnaan.
Action News reached out to Libs of TikTok whose only response was, “Our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to fund sex parties.”
It’s a narrative that the William Way Center’s executive director says is not only untrue but unfairly targets the LGBTQ+ community.
“The lies and distortions of our opponents have really led to a real miscarriage of justice here,” said Bartlett.
The William Way Center says it’s gotten a lot of private support ever since the federal funding was pulled.
The center will look to local, state, and federal resources to help get that funding restored.
PS Its the other side of gay life. Just like gay bookstores.