HB 300 Reintroduced in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) strongly supports the reintroduction of HB 300 yesterday in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to provide protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. HB 300 was reintroduced for the fifth time by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23), joined by a second prime sponsor Rep. Chris Ross (R-158), with a total ninety cosponsors.

Seventy-nine of the co-sponsors are Democrat and eleven are Republican. The Republican co-sponsors include three members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Reps. Ross, Fleck, and Murt, along with Reps. Peifer, Scavello, Taylor, R. Brown, Petri, Killion, Quinn, and Harper. Every Republican co-sponsor represents a district in eastern Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, the House Leadership has once again sent the legislation to the State Government Committee, where it will surely languish for another session. The committee chair is Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) who has vowed to defeat the bill. Advocates were hoping the legislation would be sent to another committee this session for a chance at a floor vote, where it would be expected to pass.

The record number of 90 State Reps. in support of LGBT nondiscrimination protections represents nearly forty years of tireless efforts by countless civil rights advocates.

The first Pennsylvania nondiscrimination bill inclusive of sexual orientation was introduced in 1976 by a Rep. Norman Berson (D-187) from Philadelphia – with only two cosponsors.  There have been twenty-two nondiscrimination bills introduced since which have been inclusive of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In 1975, Pennsylvania became the first state government in the nation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation for its employees through an executive order by Gov. Milton Shapp. Every Pennsylvania Governor since, Republican or Democrat, has reissued the order – except for the current Gov. Tom Corbett. Seventeen states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Thirty-one municipalities in Pennsylvania have enacted local nondiscrimination ordinances inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity protections since 1982. The first to pass local ordinances were the cities of Philadelphia (1982), Harrisburg (1983), and Pittsburgh (1990). Most recently, local organizers have independently pressed suburban municipalities including Lower Merion Township (2010), Abington Township (2012), and Pittston (2013) to adopt nondiscrimination ordinances. While these local laws protect just over 30% of the state population, a vast majority of Pennsylvania residents can legally be fired, denied public accommodations, and kicked out of their homes, simply for being, or perceived to be, LGBT.

In the private sector, LGBT nondiscrimination policies have become standard practice to recruit and retain the best and brightest workers. There are 434 (88%) Fortune 500 companies that have adopted a nondiscrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation protections and 282 (57%) Fortune 500 companies have done so inclusive of gender identity protections. Every Fortune 500 company in Pennsylvania has an LGBT inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman said, “It is shameful that Pennsylvania is the last place in the northeast United States with essentially no protections for LGBT people. In 2013, Pennsylvanians should not accept how our state disregards people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of HB 300  is critical to the prosperity of our businesses, communities, and families. We must do all we can to support the swift adoption of an inclusive nondiscrimination bill in Pennsylvania.”

The companion bill to this legislation, SB 300, has yet to be formally introduced.

Map of HB 300 Co-Sponsors

Correction: Rep. Norman Berson (D-187) was mentioned as being from the Lehigh Valley. This post was updated to correct that he was from Philadelphia County.

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