Pennsylvania, get with the equality program

Pennsylvania, get with the equality program

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News came out last week that a record number of pro-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2018, and that the prospects of many more states passing similar legislation in 2019 seems likely.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute on Jan. 31 released their fifth annual State Equality Index, a report detailing statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and protect them from discrimination.

While those on the federal level continue to push for a nationwide Equality Act, current LGBTQ protections depend on in which state they reside. HRC’s report notes that in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of their gender or orientation status. So, more than half of these United States believe it’s OK to discriminate against our community or don’t believe we’re worth the effort. The sad thing is, Pennsylvania is one of them.

Certain members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are dragging their feet on this legislation. Meanwhile, we have lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, pushing on the federal level as a cosponsor of the Equality Act — a bill that would establish comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people regardless of state. What’s the disconnect?

Come on, state legislators: Get with the program.

Last month, a leadership change in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives hinted that LGBTQ people in the Keystone State could have a renewed chance for protections.

The change had Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12th Dist.) out as chair of the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee after eight years. Metcalfe had prevented pro-LGBTQ bills from getting to the House floor. One of those bills was the Fairness Act, which would expand existing nondiscrimination provisions in employment, housing and other areas to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Metcalfe was reassigned to a new committee on Jan. 2. Meanwhile, the new State Government Committee chair, Rep. Garth Everett (R-84th Dist.), told PGN he was just getting organized in his new role and hoped to look into the Fairness Act in February.

We hope you’re settled, Mr. Everett — because it’s February.

So, while we keep our fingers crossed that those on the federal level act, let’s demand that our state legislators also take action — and now. Why the wait? 

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