State agency appoints LGBTQ commissioner

State agency appoints LGBTQ commissioner

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The executive director of Allentown’s LGBT community center was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate to serve as a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Center in Allentown, was named PHRC’s newest commissioner. In a 49-0 bipartisan vote, the Senate confirmed Shanker to serve on the commission Oct. 1, joining nine other commissioners to enforce state laws that prohibit discrimination. Gov. Tom Wolf nominated Shanker in June to join the commission.

Shanker was confirmed by a Republican led Senate. “It’s important that the work of protecting our community from discrimination should not ever be seen as partisan or controversial,” he said.

Shanker emphasized the importance of the LGBTQ community having representation. “We need to make sure that LGBTQ people are able to serve on important commissions like this one.”

The appointment came after PHRC’s recent decision to investigate complaints of LGBT discrimination as sex discrimination. The change was implemented in July after a 7-1 commissioner vote to approve the guidance to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The guidance states that “the term ‘sex’ under the PHRA may refer to sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender transition, gender identity and/or gender expression depending on the individual facts of the case.”

In April 2017, the agency proposed guidance that would allow it to accept LGBT-related complaints, even though the state’s antibias law doesn’t explicitly cover sexual orientation and gender identity. PHRC investigates antibias complaints in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, commercial property and education. State and federal antibias laws explicitly ban sex discrimination in those areas.

“This is a step in the right direction to assist the LGBTQ community in fighting discrimination even though there aren’t statewide laws in place to ensure that protection for LGBTQ residents,” Shanker said.

The new commissioner previously served on the Human Relations Commission of the City of Allentown for three years (2009-12), and led the effort to establish the Human Relations Commission in Bethlehem. He also served as the president of Equality Pennsylvania from 2011-13. Shanker worked with municipalities in southeastern PA, assisting them in passing local human-relations ordinances such as banning youth-conversion therapy in Reading, Allentown and Bethlehem.

Shanker was sworn into the commission Oct. 9 at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. The oath was administered by Judge Dan Anders, the first openly gay judge to be appointed to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Shanker’s term as a PHRC commissioner will end in 2023. 

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