The lead sponsor of a bill to ban LGBT discrimination statewide is urging the Pennsylvania House Speaker to not assign the newly re-introduced measure to the committee helmed by virulently anti-LGBT Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12th Dist.).
Longtime sponsor Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.) submitted the Pennsylvania Fairness Act Tuesday morning, with 73 cosponsors. In past sessions, the legislation has been sent to the State Government committee, where it has been met with staunch opposition from Metcalfe.
In a statement, Frankel urged Speaker Mike Turzai (R-28th Dist.) to consider other options.
“I urge Speaker Turzai to send the Fairness Act to a committee where it can get a fair hearing, and we all know that a committee chaired by Rep. Metcalfe just doesn't qualify, based on his record and his own words about the bill,” Frankel said.
Frankel spokesperson Gabe Speece told PGN Commerce or Judiciary are among the relevant committees to which the bill could be assigned.
“Rep. Frankel would frankly be pretty happy with almost any committee relevant to the bill where the chairperson will really look at the merits of it and give it a fair hearing,” Speece said. “We’ve been in a situation where we haven’t had a chance to have the issues raised in State Government.”
The bill has stalled for more than a decade. If approved, it would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the classes protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Last year, the Senate sponsors divided the legislation into separate bills addressing each of the protection areas; the housing bill, with an amendment to extend protections to employment, passed out of a committee but went no further.
Speece said Frankel is open to considering alternative approaches to advance the bill but wanted to start with a comprehensive measure.
“For Rep. Frankel right now, comprehensive is the best way to go,” Speece said. “You get protections for all three areas. In the course of negotiations and moving back and forth between chambers to try to get this to the end game in the last year, the idea of splitting it up came up more than it ever has before. But there was no way Dan was willing to use that [divided bill] as a starting point; this is ideally what we want to see hit the governor’s desk. But we’ll see what unfolds over the near year-and-a-half. We’re always willing to talk to people about it, but we had to start somewhere.”
Five Republicans were among the cosponsors: Kate Harper (61st Dist.), Aaron Kaufer (120th Dist.), Thomas Murt (152nd Dist.), John Taylor (177th Dist.) and Katherine Watson (144th Dist.). A Senate version of the legislation was introduced last month and was sent to that chamber’s State Government committee.