Frankel, Sims ready House petition in hopes of freeing nondiscrimination bill

'Over 70% of Pennsylvanians support this – they deserve a fair hearing and a vote'

HARRISBURG, June 9 – State Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Brian Sims, D-Phila., are planning to pry a bipartisan nondiscrimination bill out of a committee whose chairman has refused even to hold a hearing on it.

Frankel is lead House sponsor of the proposed Pennsylvania Fairness Act (H.B. 1510/S.B. 974). The legislation would update Pennsylvania’s current nondiscrimination law – originally written in 1955 – to ensure that all residents 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.  

Frankel and Sims have filed a discharge petition, which allows a simple majority of the House to free a bill from a committee where it has been stalled. They can call for the vote as soon as Wednesday.

Frankel said: "Poll after poll over the years has shown consistent support of 70 percent or more in Pennsylvania for this commonsense, nondiscrimination legislation. Most Pennsylvanians don’t want their gay or transgender family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors to get fired or denied a home, a hotel room or a restaurant table just because of who they are. They know that's wrong.

"Most Pennsylvanians know being gay or transgender has nothing to do with someone's ability to fix a car or a computer, for example. And thanks to the coverage of anti-LGBT bills in Indiana and North Carolina, Pennsylvanians are learning that anti-LGBT laws cause backlash to a state's economy and that the bathroom panic that opponents try to whip up is made-up nonsense."

Sims said: "This kind of willful resistance – refusing even to hold a hearing on a bill with wide, bipartisan support – is exactly what people don't like about Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. People are tired of Harrisburg being a place where good ideas go to die.

"Marriage equality has been the law of the land in Pennsylvania since 2014 and nationwide since last year's Supreme Court decision. There's majority support for equal marriage, and it's outrageous that people who finally have the right to marry can still lose their job or their apartment if they actually use that right," said Sims, the state's first out LGBT person elected to the legislature.

In the House, the bill is stalled in the State Government Committee, chaired by anti-LGBT Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Frankel said: "We would prefer to see House Republican leaders convince the chairman to release the bill to a different committee that will give the bill a fair hearing and vote. A discharge petition is a last resort. This issue is not going away -- there are Capitol rallies in the works both for and against the Fairness Act. It's better to deal with it sooner rather than later. Over 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support this – they deserve a fair hearing and a vote.

"It's time to move Pennsylvania forward. Let's make our state more fair, and more attractive and competitive for visitors, workers and businesses, by passing the bipartisan Pennsylvania Fairness Act."