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August 27, 2015

General Assembly reintroduces anti-LGBT-discrimination bill

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states where someone can be fired for their sexual orientation

LGBT Discrimination
Philadelphia Museum of Art Contributed Art/Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art uses photo editing software to depict banners across its entrance in support of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The state legislators reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to discriminate against gay or transgender employees, hoping that the time is ripe for the bill's passage now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state.

Supporters framed the debate as both a business issue and an issue of fairness.

"A statewide nondiscrimination bill will not only ensure equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters in the workplace, but it will also end Pennsylvania's status as the only Northeastern state without such a law. This bill will make our state economy more inclusive and competitive than ever before," said Jim Kenney, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Philadelphia, in a joint statement with Representative Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia).

Philadelphia law already forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, among myriad other factors.

"In order to attract and cultivate a diverse workforce of the highly skilled, trained, creative and innovative individuals, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania must act to protect all employees from discrimination," said Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of LGBT affair for Mayor Michael Nutter, said in the same statement.

The bill has bipartisan support but may fall at the same stumbling blocks that faced an earlier version of the bill introduced in the spring.

The earlier bill was sent to the State Government Committee, which is chaired by socially conservative Republican Daryl Metcalfe. He told that there's no reason to "provide protection in statute so that people could go about offending their neighbors" and joked that he wanted to start "a heterosexual caucus."

Philadelphia Gay News reported that the House version of the bill has 12 Republican and 71 Democratic sponsors, while the Senate version has six Republican and 19 Democratic sponsors. 

Sims, the first openly gay person to be elected to the state legislature, pointed out the irony of the fact that LGBTQ Pennsylvanians can get married but can also be legally fired for their sexual orientation.

"While Pennsylvanians have enjoyed the right to marriage equality for over a year now, we are long past due for equality in our discrimination laws. This is no longer a progressive issue, but an issue of basic fairness," he said.

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual and/or gender identity.