LGBT inclusive anti-cyberbullying legislation cleared the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday.
House Bill 229, introduced by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105th Dist.), passed overwhelmingly, 193-5.
HB 229 would amend state law to provide protection for young people online against “seriously disparaging statements or opinions about a child’s sexuality or sexual orientation,” among other provisions. Under the bill, offenders would face a third-degree misdemeanor charge.
The bill takes steps to address bullying in the digital age, which now often takes place when a child is on a computer at home — a place that would normally be considered a refuge for victims.
“I think that it used to be if you were bullied, you could go home and hang out, and you had your parents to protect you,” said state Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-175th Dist.), a cosponsor. “But now with computers and all the social media, you don’t have that. Bullying is a constant factor, directed to you personally and the community at large via social media.”
O’Brien said the bipartisan support for the legislation, especially in light of the LGBT-inclusive language, is notable.
“There has been a real evolution with this bill,” said O’Brien. “It didn’t contain the inclusive language when it was first introduced a couple years ago. I think that reflects the growing acceptance of the [LGBT] community across Pennsylvania.”
O’Brien said he is optimistic about the bill’s passage in the Senate, citing state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.) as a likely advocate for the legislation.