Pennsylvania moved up in ranking on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual LGBT State Equality Index report.
The state, which ranked in at “High Priority to Basic Equality” in HRC’s 2016 report, moved up to the “Building Equality” category.
The annual report was released by the HRC and Equality Federation Institute in an effort to assess statewide LGBT-related legislation and policies.
There are still 26 states in the “High Priority” category. Pennsylvania is in the second-lowest category.
Pennsylvania still lacks statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT residents, according to Equality Pennsylvania Interim Executive Director John Dawe.
In some parts of the state, there are no local laws and people can be fired or evicted for identifying as LGBTQ, said Dawe.
The State Equality Index evaluates state laws and policies. States are assigned to one of four categories in the report, including: Working Toward Equality, Solidifying Equality, Building Equality and High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.
“In order to increase our ranking, Pennsylvania needs to update our laws to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, especially in the areas of family law, nondiscrimination protections, hate crimes, youth laws including safe schools and anti-bullying, and heath and safety,” Dawe said.
Equality Pennsylvania fights for LGBT-inclusive laws and policies at the state and local level. This includes protecting state employees and contractors from discrimination, allowing LGBT-owned businesses to qualify as minority-owned and allowing transgender people to easily update their gender marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
More than an estimated 12-million LGBT Americans and families remain at risk, specifically if they live in states where they are not protected by laws against firing, evicting or being denied services because of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Dawe.
Also, more than 125 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in the past year.
While the state as a whole has yet to ban conversion therapy on minors, strides have been made as municipalities within the state have passed ordinances and bills banning conversion therapy for minors.
“Our legislators must also stand strong and defeat any legislation that would take away existing rights from people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” Dawe said.
While Equality Pennsylvania constantly fights for LGBT individuals and families, there is still a need for support, according to Dawe.
“We are continuing to make progress because of the financial support, community activism and volunteerism of our community and its allies; and are grateful every day,” Dawe said.
The HRC and Equality Pennsylvania also released poll data claiming voters across Pennsylvania support LGBT-inclusive policies and would be less likely to vote for an opposing candidate.
The report states 59 percent of Pennsylvania voters support LGBT people legally adopting children and 56 percent support making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in employment.
Additionally, 53 percent of people support making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing.
“The State Equality Index reminds us that the strength of our movement is where it has always been: in the states, in the communities we call home,” Executive Director of Equality Federation Institute Rebecca Isaacs said in a statement.
More information about programs and community involvement is available at equalitypa.org. The complete State Equality Index report is available at www.hrc.org/sei.