Bipartisan Support Announced for 'Pennsylvania Fairness Act' to Boost Economic Competitiveness
Bill puts Pa. in winning position for job creation, workforce excellence, economic development
HARRISBURG, Aug. 26, 2015 – State Sens. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Larry Farnese (D-Phila.) and Reps. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) and Tom Killion (R-Delaware) today announced the introduction of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.
The legislation (S.B. 974 and H.B. 1510) would update Pennsylvania’s current nondiscrimination law – originally written in 1955 – to ensure that all citizens regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability and now – sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – can participate in and contribute to the state’s economy.
It is currently legal in Pennsylvania to fire someone and deny them housing or business services solely on the basis of the person being gay or transgender.
Browne said, "Promoting inclusion and eliminating discrimination fosters growth in Pennsylvania’s economy by ensuring that the Commonwealth is able to attract employees from a highly skilled workforce and, in particular, appeal to members of the innovative millennial generation."
Frankel said, "This new bill is an opportunity for Pennsylvania to stand up against discrimination in support of basic human rights and economic growth. Our work over several years has brought us to this point and we believe the bipartisan support now expressed for this legislation will advance the bill."
A recent survey of Pennsylvania residents showed that 73 percent incorrectly believe discrimination against gay and transgender people in the workplace and in housing and business services is already illegal. The same study found 78 percent of Pennsylvanians are in support of updating the current Human Relations Act to include protections for gay and transgender people.
Farnese said: "Updating Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law is important not only from a basic civil rights standpoint, but will directly and positively impact Pennsylvania’s competitive ranking for economic development. This new legislation reflects the importance of encouraging the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees to live and work in Pennsylvania."
Killion said: "All 23 of Pennsylvania’s Fortune 500 companies already have sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression nondiscrimination policies. The time is right for the state to support our job creators with a policy that provides uniformity and certainty."
The legislation also has the support of a growing business coalition that comprises employers throughout the state.
"Dow’s employees are our greatest asset. That is why inclusion is simply the right thing to do as both a matter of fairness and as a business imperative," said Peter Gudritz, senior manager for state government affairs, The Dow Chemical Co. "Dow is committed to working with the public and private sectors in Pennsylvania to ensure the state remains welcoming and economically competitive. This is why we strongly support the Pennsylvania Fairness Act."
Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, said: "Pennsylvania businesses are engaged in a highly competitive war for talent. This legislation not only provides basic protections for our employees, but it also showcases Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth that is serious about attracting the world’s most diverse and creative workforce."
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