House Bill 300 would bring gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people under the umbrella of the state’s non-discrimination protections.
The bill provides for right to freedom from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation; defining “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression”; and further providing for unlawful discriminatory practices.
It has broad bipartisan support in the House, with 92 cosponsors, 12 of whom are Republicans. It also has a partner bill in the Senate, SB 300.
The governor told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was “coming out in support” of the bill now that he understood the federal government has no such protections.
“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” Corbett told the Inquirer. “The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
Conservative organizations have opposed the bill, saying that it would create special protected classes based on perceived sexual orientation or identity.
“We know that this would create an insidious public policy that would result in treating anyone with a conscientious objection to homosexual activity or lifestyle, as an enemy of the state,” said PA Family Council, an organization that promotes traditional family values. “It would pit religious faith and conviction against a new state-protected behavior that could violate our cherished free exercise of religion -— in our schools, in our businesses, in our ministries and in the public square.”
Corbett’s statement in support was lauded by EqualityPA, the state’s leading LGBT rights organization.
“His support for this bill underscores that people of Pennsylvania understand that while we may not all have the same views and beliefs, we all deserve to be able to earn a living to support ourselves, to support our families, and to contribute to society,” EqualityPA Executive Director Ted Martin said. “Thank you, Gov. Corbett, for calling out discrimination in all its forms.”
A poll commissioned by Equality PA and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research in March found support of a nondiscrimination policy in the state at 72%.
The General Assembly is now on winter recess and will reconvene on January 7th.