Central PA's LGBT News Source

Goal: fully protect LGBTQ people

LBGT Protection Bills Intro’d in PA's House, Senate


House Bill 1404 by Rep. Dan Frankel and Senate Bill 614 by Sen. Farnese are now in the legislative game. With similar language, they provide basic civil rights for LGBT individuals.

That’s if they pass.

Pennsylvania has had similar legislation introduced in 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2018. And that’s where all activity stopped.

The companion bills introduced on May 6 would update Pennsylvania’s current nondiscrimination law – originally written in 1955 – to ensure that all residents, regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability -- and now sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – can participate in and contribute to the state’s economy.

It is currently legal in Pennsylvania to fire someone and deny them housing or business services solely based of the person being gay or transgender. And that’s even though a recent survey of state residents shows that 73 % incorrectly believe discrimination against gay and transgender people in the workplace and in housing and business services is already illegal.

Rep. Frankel finds the current situation – 55 of 2,685 municipalities in the state have protections, the remaining 2,630 do not - “incredulous, what a patchwork of protections within our state.” The business community understands, Frankel noted, citing a statement issued by the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce supporting HB 1404.

Locally, Keystone Business Alliance, the region’s LGBT chamber in attendance at the press conference, has endorsed Open to All, a nationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding and discussion about the importance of nondiscrimination laws. There are more than 200 other US organizations and businesses supporting the campaign, according to their web site.

Also represented at the announcement were TransCentralPA, PA Youth Congress, and Trans Advocacy Pennsylvania.

When Amazon searched for an East coast headquarters in late 2018, many entities threw their hat into the contest for the possible 50,000 jobs. Many observers thought it was a wasted effort since Pennsylvania doesn’t have protections as does the online behemoth. Workers could potentially have more protections in the Amazon workplace and less when driving home.

Local testimony

Jessi Purdy, Lancaster Pride Festival Chair, spoke at the legislative unveiling. A transgender woman, she spoke of difficulties faced with everyday life scenarios – renting an apartment, employment, access to health care. “I had it all growing up – shoving, pushing, name-calling,” Purdy told Central Voice after speaking in the Capital Media Center.

Todd Snovel, PA Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, said, “Imagine – six words – what a difference adding them would make to our laws that protect people from discrimination” in housing, employment, public accommodations and the provision of goods and services.

Strong support

“We have all 22 Senate Democrats signed on to this legislation,” Sen. Farnese said at the press conference.

Openly gay PA State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, 181st District, speaking about the lack of basic civil rights protections for LGBT taxpayers, said “It is time for Pennsylvania to wipe this stain from its history.” He spoke of an 11-year-old boy who hung himself due to chronic school-based bullying because of his perceived sexuality.

Openly-gay PA State Rep. Brian Sims, 182nd District, said that he drives through “four zones getting from home to his seat in the General Assembly. In two, I have protections. In two I do not. I have protections depending on where I stop my car. I think we’ve had enough.”

“It’s unacceptable that today, there are Pennsylvanians who must be afraid that they’ll lose their job or home simply because of who they are. As some of my colleagues have been advocating for this legislation for the past 20 years, it’s time we get serious about it. It’s literally lifesaving,” Sims said.

“Imagine that we’re catching up with Kentucky,” Sims told Central Voice. Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state without basic civil rights for LGBT individuals. The issue is now before the US Supreme Court. “Will be do the right thing or wait for the US Supreme Court to it for us?” he challenged his legislative colleagues.

Bills in various forms with various language have been introduced in the General Assembly since 2011. None have ever been brought up for a vote. Although different, they all contained language that focused on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The recent study found 78% of Pennsylvanians are in support of updating the current Human Relations Act to include protections for gay and transgender people. 

According to Freedom for All Americans, more than 500 businesses in Pennsylvania support an update to Pennsylvania law to fully protect LGBT people.