03.05.2009 6:14pm EST
(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) Legislation prohibiting discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in housing, employment, and public accommodations has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
It would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” as protected classes. The bill, introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel (D) has 79 co-sponsors from both parties and from across the commonwealth.
“This legislation is critical to thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians who are trying to work and have a roof over their heads, and it enjoys substantial support from Pennsylvanians from every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Jake Kaskey, policy and outreach coordinator of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.
“At a time when more and more people across the state find themselves unemployed, we need to make sure every Pennsylvanian who wants to work has a fair chance at work,” Kaskey added.
The bill is expected to go to the House State Government Committee, where it has been assigned in the past.
“We are very encouraged by the record number of legislators who have signed on as co-sponsors of this bill and we think it is a good sign for future progress,” added Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
Current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog.
Thirteen Pennsylvania municipalities have already enacted civil rights laws including protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. State College also has an ordinance that only covers sexual orientation discrimination in housing and employment.
But nearly 80 percent of the state’s 12 million residents live or work in communities that do not provide these protections.
Twenty states in the country have similar laws, including Pennsylvania’s neighboring states of New Jersey, Maryland and New York.