To take a break from the myriad of bad news coming out of the Pennsylvanian House of Representatives, we are very happy to report that House Bill 300 was reintroduced along with companion Senate Bill 910. As you may remember, HB 300 is the bill amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression into the long list of protected classes given “equal employment, housing and public accommodation opportunities.”
This protection is so important because it is currently missing in a majority of the state. Nineteen municipalities have their own non-discrimination ordinances, which is wonderful, but if you are a Pennsylvanian not living in Allentown, Allegheny County, Doylestown, Easton, Erie County, Harrisburg, Haverford Township, Lancaster, Lansdowne, Lower Marion Township, New Hope, Reading, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, State College, Swarthmore, West Chester or York it is currently perfectly legal to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Many Pennsylvanians do not live in those 19 municipalities but still desperately need protection. Our lack of an inclusive non-discrimination law also makes us an outlier among the 21 other states who have already amended their laws in order to protect their residents.
The need for these bills is obvious, but as we can see from the failure of HB 300 the last time around there is still so much work to be done. HB 300 stalled in the State Government Committee in 2009 and the reintroduced bill has already been in that committee for a month. Senate Bill 910 has also been sitting in committee since April.
We’re going to have to start getting the word out about these bills and making it obvious that protecting Pennsylvanians from discrimination is a necessity.