Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-38th Dist.) introduced Senate Bill 42 in early January, while State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th Dist.) will take the lead from former Rep. Josh Shapiro on House Bill 177, also introduced in January.
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state’s hate-crimes law. LGBT people were previously protected by the law, but a 2007 court decision lifted that provision.
Boyle’s measure has 32 cosponsors, compared to 40 last session.
Boyle cosponsored Shapiro’s bill in 2011, and was eager to take up the leadership role when Shapiro left the state legislature.
“I was afraid that this could be something that could drop, so I wanted to pick up this fight to make sure we get this bill added to protect Pennsylvanians,” he said.
Boyle said the legislation is needed but that there could be a struggle to convince individuals on both sides of the aisle.
“It is just common sense. Unfortunately, it takes a fight on behalf of those of us who feel passionately that we need to protect all Pennsylvanians,” he said. “This should be something that conservative representatives should get behind.”
Boyle said the bill is vital to protect LGBTs.
“When someone commits such a heinous act, they are not just committing a crime against a victim, but they are victimizing the entire community. Folks who are a part of the LGBT community deserve protection.”
Ferlo, who led the measure for the past several sessions, said it remains a relevant piece of legislation.
“I think we have to continue to be strenuous advocates for this piece of legislation because it is very critically needed,” he said.
Ferlo said he thinks the bill has a chance to pass in the Senate.
“I think if there is any hope, it will be in the state Senate because of the greater number of Democratic leaders. We also hope to reach out to Republican colleagues,” he said. “We need to continue to work among colleagues and have confidence for Republicans to be sympathetic to the bill, at least in the Senate.”
Ferlo’s measure was introduced with 13 cosponsors, compared to last session’s 11.
Ferlo encouraged individuals to press their lawmakers to sign on.
“The problem is we do not have a lot of information out there,” Ferlo said. “We need to unite and work for this. Folks who want to communicate with their representatives should do so with phone calls, letters, setting up meetings, etc.”
Cosponsors for Ferlo’s bill include Sens. LeAnna Washington (D-Fourth Dist.), James Brewster (D-45th Dist.), Rob Teplitz (D-15th Dist.), Lawrence Farnese (D-First Dist.), Anthony Williams (D-Eighth Dist.), Shirley Kitchen (D-Third Dist.), Christine Tartaglione (D-Second Dist.), Judith Schwank (D-11th Dist.), Jay Costa (D-43rd Dist.), Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.), Wayne Fontana (D-42nd Dist.), Vincent Hughes (D-Seventh Dist.) and Patrick Browne (R-16th Dist.).
Cosponsors for Boyle’s bill include Reps. Kevin Boyle (D-172 Dist.), Adam Ravenstahl (D-20th Dist.), Don Costa (D-21st Dist.), Mike Fleck (R-81st Dist.), Tina M. Davis (D-141st Dist.), Michelle Brownlee (D-195th Dist.), Vanessa Brown (D-190th Dist.), William Kortz (D-38th Dist.), Michael O’Brien (D-175th Dist.), Michael Schlossberg (D-132nd Dist.), Louise Bishop (D-192nd Dist.), Scott Conklin (D-77th Dist.), Michael Sturla (D-96th Dist.), Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.), Steven Santarsiero (D-31st Dist.), Cherelle Parker (D-200th Dist.), Maria Donatucci (D-185th Dist.), Mark Cohen (D-202nd Dist.), Mike Carroll (D-118th Dist.), Curtis Thomas (D-181st Dist.), Mark Rozzi (D-126th Dist.), Stephen Kinsey (D-201st Dist.), Rosita Youngblood (D-198th Dist.), Mark Painter (D-146th Dist.), Robert Freeman (D-136th Dist.), Stephen McCarter (D-154th Dist.), Matthew Bradford (D-70th Dist.), Rep. Erin Molchany (D-22nd Dist.), Daniel McNeill (D-133rd Dist.), Brian Sims (D-182nd Dist.), John Taylor (R-177th Dist.) and Thomas Murt (R-152nd Dist.).