Friday, May 10, 2013

PA LGBT Civil Rights Bill Introduced!

Brian Sims is the first openly LGBT person
 elected to the Pennsylvania legislature
Good news from Pennsylvania on the gay rights front. Although most of the legislative action that has been happening recently has focused on the rapid developments in marriage equality, an even more important issue facing LGBT Americans is the lack of basic civil rights protections, at the federal level and in most American states.

In fact, despite what "fact-checker" Politifact says, it is absolutely true that in 29 states you can be fired if your employer learns that you are GLB or if they even think that you might be GLB. In 34 states you can be fired due to your gender identity or gender expression. That's because as of today, there are only 21 states that laws on the books banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and 16 states that ban employment discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.

The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would ban employment discrimination against LGBT people nationwide if passed by Congress. Amazingly, even though we now know that there is a majority of Senators that support marriage equality, we do not know for sure that a majority of Senators supports employment non-discrimination for LGBT Americans.

Openly gay Democrat Brian Sims is one of 200 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In fact, Brian is the first person to be elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, although Republican state Representative Mike Fleck came out last year as well.

Sims was one of the most prominent speakers at a press conference the introduction of two bills this week. Pennsylvania has famously been described by  Democratic politico James Carville as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between."

LGBT Think Progress reports:
Currently, the state offers no protections against discrimination for the LGBT community, including in employment, housing, and public accommodations — let alone any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. A new pair of bills (HB 300 and SB 300) introduced this week with bipartisan support from 100 state lawmakers would ensure that LGBT people have legal recourse if they experience discrimination because of their identities.
Openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims (D) said that he hopes the commonwealth will “finally evolve,” and Rep. Chris Ross (R) added that ending discrimination is not a partisan issue, because “All Pennsylvania citizens deserve to be treated with dignity.” The Republican-controlled General Assembly may stymie the bill’s progress, but a recent Susquehanna Polling survey found that more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support the protections, even in the conservative central regions of the state.
It's well past time that Pennsylvania, the nation's 5th largest state, had statewide LGBT protections!

Actually, of the top 10 states by population (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia) only three have laws banning sexual orientation employment discrimination by private entities (California, New York, Illinois) and only two (California, Illinois) have laws banning gender identity discrimination by private entities.

The time to pass a federal non-discrimination law (ENDA) is now!

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