Kenyatta: Failure to pass anti-discrimination at sports clubs bill proves Pa. is losing fight for equal rights

HARRISBURG, May 20 – In a statement today, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said that Pennsylvania’s complacency in allowing discrimination to continue proves that the state has a long way to go in the fight for equal rights. His statement comes after legislation he introduced that would ban outdoor sportsman clubs from discriminating against an employee on the basis of age, race, sex, religion, ethnic origin, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or disability failed to pass in the full House on Monday.

Of his legislation that fell short of a few votes required to pass, Kenyatta, D-Phila, said, “The loophole in making discrimination permissible in sportsman clubs, or any entity, is for them to designate themselves as private. This leverages them the ability to continue to deny these marginalized groups membership and employment opportunities. If passed, my legislation would have served as the catalyst in dismantling discrimination and the suppression of civil rights in not just sportsman clubs, but also in all factions of our commonwealth. Its defeat, however, magnifies how ingrained and normalized discrimination is across our state.”

Kenyatta, who is the first openly gay man of color to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, lamented on the reality that despite tirelessly serving residents across the commonwealth, there are parts where he is still unwelcomed.

“I am a black openly gay man fighting hard for residents in the legislature of a state that continues to allow discrimination against people who look like me and other minorities to permeate in our society,” he said. “It influences our daily lives. It influences how we are treated and our accessibility to opportunities such as economic mobility, employment, and health care, as a few examples. In all, something that we have no control over predestines our quality of life.”

Additionally, Kenyatta asserted that no Pennsylvanian should be turned away from employment especially as many residents, regardless of their backgrounds, are reeling from the impact of the economic crisis stemming from the pandemic. He highlighted that the crisis is especially dire for minorities who have been overwhelmingly most affected due to preexisting disparities relating to race, class, gender identity and sexual orientation being intensified in its wake.

“All Pennsylvanians’ lives and livelihoods have been completely upended, but there’s also a disproportionate amount of black, brown, LGBTQ and lower-income residents who have felt the full brunt of this crisis,” he said. “Despite being minorities, they are overrepresented in joblessness and as underpaid frontline workers in hazardous conditions. They also disproportionately make up positive COVID-19 cases and deaths. For those seeking employment in safe environments during this trying time, no one should be turned away, especially not because of their identities and economic status.”

Kenyatta’s legislation, which received 100 affirmative votes to 102 negative votes, was  offered as an amendment to House Bill 2440, which would allow outdoor sportsman clubs in Pennsylvania to open under the compliance of the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines for safety of members and employees.