Imagine if your boss could fire you, even though you’re considered a high-quality employee who arrives early and stays late, just because he doesn’t like your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.
For hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, that is a reality.
This Labor Day week, the rights of working people are under attack on many fronts. And there is one group of workers that is still fighting simply for the chance to keep their jobs.
Shockingly, it’s still perfectly legal in most of Pennsylvania to fire someone just for being LGBT. It’s also legal to kick renters out of their homes and even to deny someone a hotel room or service at a restaurant for the same reason.
You can even be fired, evicted or denied service for being heterosexual — or if someone just thinks you’re gay. (Yes, really.)
If you’re confused, because you thought Pennsylvania protected workers from discrimination, you’re partly right.
Under existing law, a good employee can’t be fired for being black, Latino, Asian — or white. A good employee can’t be fired for being a woman — or a man. A good employee can’t be fired for his or her religion: Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Catholics, for example, all receive this basic protection. A good employee can’t be fired for becoming pregnant, or becoming disabled, so long as she continues to do her job.
And rightly so.
But under current law, that same person can be fired for something else they can’t and shouldn’t have to change about themselves — who they love.
Discrimination in Pennsylvania may be legal, but it’s also clearly wrong and un-American, which is why 72 percent of Pennsylvanians support changing state law to ban these types of discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in public accommodations.
That includes a majority of Pennsylvania Republicans, and a majority of people in every region of the state. It’s a matter of basic fairness.
The bipartisan House bill (HB 300) that would fix the law has 90 House cosponsors, and 25 Senate cosponsors — almost half of the entire General Assembly. However, it’s been sent to the House State Government Committee, chaired by a vocally anti-gay-rights legislator, who has vowed to block the bill by preventing a hearing or a vote on the issue. But it doesn’t have to stay there. You can help get it out.
In fact, statistically, you, the person reading this, are probably part of the 72 percent who support fairness. And if you call or email your state representative to demand a hearing and a vote on HB 300, you can shake Harrisburg into doing the right thing for our family members, friends and coworkers across the state.
Visit www.legis.state.pa.us to find out who your state representative is, and help us make history.
— State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.)