June is Pride month. Of course, like other “months,” support for the LGBTQ+ community cannot be condensed into an annual month of celebration and activity. It is a basic human right for everyone to be free to love who they love and to be their authentic self. And yet queer kids are still being bullied, books are being banned, conversion abuse is still permitted, and trans folks are purposely targeted while institutional leadership continually fails to take action.
Unfortunately, some institutional leadership has also enabled or embraced this hate. In the current climate, Pride is more than just symbolic—it is an essential show of solidarity with our LGBTQ+ friends, relatives, and citizens in communities where their rights are under attack.
A just society includes and protects all people. As a state legislator, I continue to fight to level the playing field for all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, or social status. Over the last 30 years, fighting for justice has been my life’s work.
As the brother of a gay sister, I saw the opportunities that were denied to her. I am proud of her work in business, the fantastic parent she became, the good woman she married, and the happiness she made for herself despite the unnecessary challenges she endured simply to be herself. Regardless of the passage of time and the steps we have taken towards a more just Pennsylvania, I remain stung by the irrational rejection of her exceptional talent and good heart. It is, after all, what really matters in our society.
As an attorney representing LGBTQ folks, I have felt the pain they suffered due to an irrational abuse of power or discriminatory action. For 30 years, I have done my level best to fight to oppose the forces of hate, fear, and institutional bias. In Harrisburg, am continuing that fight. I am a member of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus and was proud to vote with the majority to pass the Fairness Act (HB 300), which aims to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations and housing. It is not a complicated statute, it simply amends the 1955 PA Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to its list of protected classes, providing these folks the same protections we provide based on religion, race, color, age, ancestry and national origin.
That vote for the Fairness Act, on May 2nd made it my best birthday to date, even if it was away from my family in Harrisburg with only bad hotel coffee, because it improves the quality of justice and helps build a better world for my family and the countless families that come after. It is exactly why I do this job. We have so many problems to face together in the 21st century, we simply cannot afford to waste our energy on irrational bias. To continue that effort, I have also sponsored a number of bills to help protect the rights of LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians.
- House Bill 575, PN 547, which would prohibit a mental health professional from engaging in conversion therapy with an individual under 18 years of age.
- House Bill 993, PN 920, which would amend Act 150 of 1992 (Credit Services Act) to prohibit a credit services organization and its employees from discriminating against borrowers based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- House Bill 1024, PN 1021, which would amend Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to replace ethnic intimidation with hate-based intimidation.
- House Bill 1025, PN 1358, which would amend Act 14 of 1949 (Public School Code of 1949) to define “hate-based intimidation” in the context of the PA Attorney General’s youth violence prevention, Safe2Say Reporting Program, as inflicting physical injury on another individual, harm to property or other type of injury, which is motivated by hatred toward the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability of another individual or group of individuals with which the other individual is associated.
As the song goes, “What the world needs now is love…it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” There can never be too much love in the world—it’s the only way to overcome hate. It’s the best guide to find the best of what we can be as individuals and as a society. I wholeheartedly believe that love is worth celebrating, in its many forms. Our LGBTQ+ friends, relatives, neighbors and community members need and deserve our support. That’s what Pride is all about, and that’s why I celebrate Pride this month and every month.