Movement ramps up on PA antibias bills

Movement ramps up on PA antibias bills

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A vote could come next week that could enable the long-stalled LGBT antibias bill to move to the state House floor.

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.) on Wednesday gave notice to the House that he intends to call for a vote on his discharge resolution that he submitted last week. A discharge resolution allows for legislation to bypass a committee vote and head straight to the House floor for consideration.

Procedural rules require two legislative days’ notice before a vote can be taken on a discharge resolution, meaning the discharge vote could happen June 21 or after.

Frankel introduced the Pennsylvania Fairness Act in September, and it was sent to the State Government Committee, where the legislation has languished for several sessions. The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the classes protected from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Frankel noted that the measure has wide legislative support — including 82 cosponsors — and a vast majority of Pennsylvanians, about 72 percent, support LGBT nondiscrimination legislation. However, the State Government Committee is chaired by virulently antigay Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), who has pledged to kill the legislation.

“We’ve gotten tired of the fact that a piece of legislation that has brought the cosponsorship it has in the House isn’t even getting a hearing or a vote,” Frankel said about the discharge approach.

Nondiscrimination efforts also recently ramped up in the Pennsylvania Senate.

State Sen. Patrick Browne (R-16th Dist.) last week introduced SB 1307, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the classes protected from discrimination in housing in the state. He also submitted SB 1306, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment.

A bill to ban LGBT discrimination in public accommodations was reportedly introduced but the legislative database does not yet show a record of it. Browne did not respond to a request for comment.

Browne is the co-prime sponsor of the Senate version of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. That bill remains in the State Government Committee.

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee was scheduled to consider SB 1307 Wednesday but the proceeding was cancelled that morning.

Jason High, chief of staff for state Sen. Scott Wagner (R), chair of the committee, told PGN the chairman does intend to call the bill up for a vote.

“We are running the bill,” he said.

“There were some concerns in our caucus, particularly procedurally, so we decided to hold off for today,” High told PGN Wednesday, noting Wagner wanted to give legislators more time to consider their stance on the piecemeal approach. “This is a new concept; this had always been Senate Bill 974 [PA Fairness Act] so this is the first time the caucus is considering this concept of splitting it.”

The day before the committee meeting was scheduled, the ACLU of Pennsylvania issued a memo saying it does not support SB 1307 because it does not also extend protections to employment and public accommodations.

Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin said his organization would back a three-pronged approach.

“We do think this is something that could advance the issue overall,” Martin said. “Obviously, we want comprehensive legislation, and we’re continuing to push that work.”

At a gathering organized Tuesday morning at the Capitol Building by Pennsylvania Youth Congress, several advocates spoke out for comprehensive LGBT-nondiscrimination legislation.

Deja Lynn Alvarez, executive director of Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center, said she doesn’t support nondiscrimination efforts that don’t include protections for public accommodations.

“The public accommodations would impact the trans community more so than any other,” she told PGN. “[Without them], we’re basically handing a license to any establishment in Pennsylvania to openly discriminate against us.”

That was a sentiment echoed by GALAEI’s Francisco Cortes.

“It’s so important that our legislators listen to our community,” he said. “We need all the protections for LGBT people, not just part.”

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