LGBT discrimination laws still in effect in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG — Same-sex couples can legally wed in Pennsylvania thanks to a recent federal court ruling, but people who are gay, lesbian or transgender can still face discrimination — allowed under the law — in employment, housing, or other public accommodations.

Activists are hoping the recent court decision on marriage will give momentum to House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300 — which would “prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

“A loving couple that gets married on a Saturday could be fired on a Monday for displaying their wedding pictures on their desk,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, the prime sponsor of the House bill.

The House version of the bill has languished for some time in the state government committee, chaired by arch-conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, who opposes the legislation. Mr. Metcalfe could not be reached Monday, but has previously said he believes the bill would discriminate against Christians.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

“If this gets to the floor, we have the votes,” said Rep. Mike Fleck, R-Huntington, who is the legislature’s only openly gay Republican, speaking at a press conference in the Capitol Monday.

Supporters expressed hope Monday that if the bill were to pass the state Senate, it could then be re-introduced in the House and referred to another committee whose chairman might be more amenable to the issue. It has more than 90 co-sponsors in the 203-member House and 25 co-sponsors in the 50-member Senate.

There is no plan currently to move the bill in the Senate.

“It's an important issue, but at this point we don't have a specific schedule in place for the bill,” said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, who the ranking Democrat on the Senate State Government committee and a supporter of the bill, said he is cautiously optimistic about its prospects in that chamber.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, 17 states include legal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination laws, and four additional states include protections based on sexual orientation. In Pennsylvania, 34 municipalities have similar ordinances, according to the ACLU.

Advocates for the legislation say the concept of barring discrimination has broad popular support and is long overdue.

“The people outside of this building are way ahead of the people inside of this building,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA.

Kate Giammarise: 717-787-4254 or or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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