Bob Szwajkos, a Bucks County attorney, revealed that he was gay at a public meeting of Newtown township supervisors in support of a “Love Is Love” resolution that the council had voted on.
Having lived in fear and closed for most of his life, Bob Szwajkos went gay 20 years ago.
“It was painful,” said Szwajkos, 72. “My family members still don’t speak to me.”
Earlier this month, when Newtown Township supervisors voted on a “Love Is Love” resolution, a statement to recognize and support LGBTQ children, Szwajkos (pronounced SWI-KOS) knew he had to say something.
“I couldn’t sit down,” he said.
The Rochester, New York native is a lawyer with Curtin & Heefner in Morrisville. He has an illustrious legal career. As a young man, he managed the gigantic failure of the Penn Central Railroad. In addition, he established the estate of the Philadelphia killer “House of Horrors” Gary Heidnik. He is a member of the city council in the nearby Newtown neighborhood.
Newtown Township supervisors met again last week. What could you say to get them to pass the “Love Is Love” resolution? It was not on the agenda. He had to persuade.
“I know what these kids face, even today,” he said.
When he got to the meeting, there was a group of gay, bi and trans teenagers attending Council Rock schools. They also spoke to a child saying he was risking college fund by going out during the television meeting.
Szwajkos approached the podium. Declaring one’s sexual orientation, even in an era of legal gay marriage, is risky. You never know which Scottish figure is listening.
“I wasn’t really sure how much to disclose,” he said.
It revealed a lot. He stopped in front of the supervisors. He looked nervous. The room went silent. It simply began.
“I’m Bob Szwajkos,” he said to them. “I am a resident of Newtown Borough. I am a gay man. “
He proceeded calmly, his voice growing louder.
“I have lived a straight life and now I am proud to be a member of the LGBT community. The gay community supports itself – because nobody would have supported us before. We are here to ask you to support us.
“I hope this advice … will show support for a segment of our population facing huge challenges simply because of their sexual identity. I am here because I can talk, because I walked for the walk.
“I am a member of this LGBT community and I am proud of it as I am proud of my Polish heritage or the fact that I am a lawyer, I am an athlete, I am contributing member of my community …
“I am out. I am proud to be out. And I am proud to have support in my community. I would not be here without that support. I am the same as anyone else under the law. And I have the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness , as are these children. I don’t have to fight for equality, because I am equal, as I am. We will fight intolerance.
“What have I seen in my life? In 1956, President Eisenhower signed an executive order in which gays were deemed not to be admitted to service in the federal government. Frank Kameny, the godfather of the gay pride movement, whom I met before his death in 2011, graduated first in his class at Harvard and was hired by the US Army Service Map. He was fired and fired. He has brought his case to the Supreme Court (USA) twice, and the Supreme Court has said there is nothing wrong with discrimination with sexual orientation. It was in the early 1960s.
“Later, in the early 1960s, we had the first gay pride parade around Independence Hall – before Stonewall. … The Lavender Scares has driven dozens of people out of federal service. Many have lost everything they had. It was not until 1970 that homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses.
“When I grew up, I could have gone to jail because I was gay. I could have been institutionalized because I was gay. It was difficult to grow.
“From the moment I was born until I was an adult, I was afraid of being kicked out. After going out, after losing my family, parts of my family will never talk to me again because I’m gay. It is a difficult burden to wake up every day.
“In the last six months I have lost good friends by suicide, drug overdose and several friends who have disappeared, I cannot find them. Gay friends, who cannot exist as adults, because of the experiences they have had.
“This advice has failed this group of young people. The statistics are disturbing. They have the highest suicide rate. They have the highest attempted suicide rate. They have the highest homelessness rate. They have the highest sex trafficking rate. We cannot abandon these young people. These are our children The children of our friends. Our grandchildren, our grandchildren, our friends. The next leaders of our community. Please don’t fear them. Please pass this resolution. “
The room erupted in applause.
Supervisors, taken aback by the backlash, quickly reintroduced, revised, voted and adopted the “Love” resolution.
Subsequently, the children of Council Rock surrounded Szwajkos as an elderly statesman, chatting and posing with him for photos.
“I don’t think (supervisors) really understood what this kind of thing means for these children, for us,” he said. “It means a lot.”
Journalist JD Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at email@example.com.