Rep. Brian Sims (D-Phila.) says ‘no,’ which is why he welcomed the reintroduction of a bipartisan non-discrimination bill to protect LGBTQ people in Pennsylvania. The bill came before the legislature on Wednesday, and Sims’s office issued an approving statement the same day.
“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,” said Sims, who is the first openly gay official to be elected to the state legislature. “This is no longer a progressive issue, but an issue of basic fairness. As we see in the bipartisan support for this bill, this is not a matter of left and right, but a matter of right and wrong.”
The proposed Pennsylvania Fairness Act would modify the state’s current nondiscrimination law. First written in 1955, the current law ensures that all citizens – regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability – can participate in and contribute to the state’s economy. The new language would add protections for citizens of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Many lawmakers feel that amending the law is necessary to protect LBGTQ citizens from discrimination. Under the state’s extant anti-discrimination law, it is currently legal in Pennsylvania to fire someone and deny them housing or business services on the basis that they are gay or transgender.
Also backing the bill is Philadelphia Democratic Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney, who has championed several civil rights bills to passage in the city before.
“Today, state legislators took an important step towards moving all Pennsylvanians forward,” Kenney said. “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.”
According to the statement from Kenney’s office, the bill will bring PA laws up to speed with public expectations for anti-discrimination regulations. A recent survey of Pennsylvania residents showed that 73% incorrectly believe discrimination against gay and transgender people in the workplace and in housing and business services is already illegal. The same study found 78% of Pennsylvanians are in support of updating the current Human Relations Act to include protections for gay and transgender people.