In order to extend protection from discrimination to LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, lawmakers in the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus unveiled the PA Fairness Act.
H.B. 300 is sponsored by Reps. Dan Frankel and Jessica Benham, both D-Allegheny, along with Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Brian Sims, both D-Phila. If passed, the PA Fairness Act would prohibit discrimination against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the commonwealth, providing a long-overdue update to Pennsylvania’s law.
“The Fairness Act is popular with voters and virtually guaranteed to pass the Pennsylvania House and Senate,” said Frankel, founder and current co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “I’ve been fighting for civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people for more than two decades, and all we need to get it across the finish line is for GOP leaders to schedule the votes. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do.”
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, ruling that an employer cannot discriminate against an individual because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s a historic victory, but that ruling still leaves the door open for other discrimination against LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians. There is no comprehensive nondiscrimination protection that covers employment, housing and public accommodations. If passed, the Keystone State would become the 23rd state in the nation that protects its LGBTQ+ residents.
Sponsors and supporters of the bill said it’s unacceptable that legislation like this hasn’t been passed in Pennsylvania yet, and it needs to be done as soon as possible to make sure the commonwealth is a safe place for all to live, work and play.
“It is unacceptable that in Pennsylvania, in the year 2021, it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks. “We should all be ashamed of that, and actively fight to make our commonwealth an inclusive place for all residents. We must stand up for all Pennsylvanians and ensure that no person is discriminated against because of who they are and who they love.”
The PA Fairness Act has four prime sponsors and 65 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It’s been referred to the House State Government Committee where it awaits further action.
“This legislation is long overdue in our commonwealth and will provide needed protections to members of our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “As public servants, we have a duty to all of our constituents to ensure that their rights are protected and their interests are served. It is past time for our commonwealth to stop ignoring this infringement on the rights of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians and pass the Fairness Act.
“The legal protections against harrassment and discrimination based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation are not comprehensive in Pennsylvania. Instead, a patchwork system protects some peoples’ rights in some municipalities, while discrimination based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation remains legal in far too many places around the commonwealth. This is unacceptable and it must change.
“I call on the leadership in the General Assembly to send this bill to my desk without delay.”