Local lawmaker proposes anti-discrimination bill

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HARRISBURG -- Dan Miller, now the controller for the city of Harrisburg, doesn't want what happened to him 20 years ago to happen to anyone else.

Mr. Miller was fired from his accounting job by a boss who said homosexuality "incapacitated him from properly discharging his duties."

Mr. Miller is lobbying for a state law proposed by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, that would outlaw workplace and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He and others spoke at a news conference Wednesday.

Several counties and municipalities -- including Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg -- already have local anti-discrimination ordinances, but Mr. Frankel said it's time protections are offered statewide.

The majority of Pennsylvanians support his effort, according to poll data released this morning by Equality Pennsylvania.

Statewide, 69 percent support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, public housing and public accommodations, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 24 percent oppose such legislation, 6 percent are undecided and 1 percent refused to answer.

Susquehanna Polling and Research surveyed 1,200 registered voters in February. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.58 percentage points.

"Those who oppose this legislation are on the wrong side of public opinion and on the wrong side of history," Mr. Frankel said.

He knows he faces an uphill battle in a Legislature controlled by Republicans, many of whom consider his effort a way to create special protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

To reach the floor, Mr. Frankel's bill must first pass the State Government Committee, whose chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, is the Legislature's most vocal opponent of protections for gay people.

"This is a long haul, and it shouldn't be," Mr. Frankel said. "But it's our responsibility to continue to advocate."

Mr. Miller said it's time to take action. Otherwise, he said, for no reason than their real or perceived sexual orientation, competent, productive people can still be forced to leave their jobs, losing seniority, benefits and pensions that go with them.

"When it came to protecting me, our laws were silent. Pennsylvania's government was silent. Unfortunately, 20 years later they are still silent," he said.

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141.


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