LGBT Equality Caucus backs agency non-discrimination proposals

Pa. Human Relations Commission may interpret existing law on sex discrimination to protect LGBT people, following some courts' and agencies' lead

HARRISBURG, May 25 – Members of the legislature's LGBT Equality Caucus today submitted public comment in favor of a state agency's proposals to interpret existing law on sex discrimination to protect LGBT people from discrimination, as several courts and agencies have already done.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which enforces state non-discrimination law, is accepting public comment through Friday on its proposals to update how it interprets the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. That law bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on several categories, including sex. The commission also proposes to make a similar update to how it interprets the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act.

State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said, "While I still believe we need the Pennsylvania Fairness Act signed into law to avoid any ambiguity, I fully support these proposals to interpret existing laws to include anti-LGBT discrimination. As Equality PA noted in its public comment, a federal appeals court stated, 'Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant -- woman or man -- dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex... It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the 'sex' from 'sexual orientation.'"

The bipartisan Fairness Act (H.B. 1410/S.B. 613) would explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the types of discrimination the Human Relations Act already explicitly bans statewide.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, LGBT Equality Caucus co-chairman, said, "This is a good move by the Human Relations Commission because it will immediately help people get protection from those who would fire them from their jobs or kick them out of their homes for being members of the LGBTQ community. It is appalling that our Commonwealth's laws allow landlords, employers and others to discriminate against Pennsylvanians because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The General Assembly must act immediately to pass the Fairness Act, which would unambiguously end this vile form of discrimination."

State Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., the first out LGBT member of the legislature, said, "Now is the time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to act. While members of the LGBT Equality Caucus are continuing to press for action in the legislature on the Fairness Act, these proposals from the state Human Relations Commission would provide a much-needed measure of legal protection statewide. Pennsylvania polls have already shown consistent support of 70 percent or more for the past eight years for these types of protections for LGBT residents and visitors."

The letter from the LGBT Equality Caucus can be read at https://is.gd/EqualityCaucus052517.
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