Pennsylvania Won’t Budge on Protections for Its LGBTQ+ Residents

Pennsylvania is falling behind in its legal protections of LGBTQ+ people. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not protected in PA laws, despite large public support and potential benefits. Now, the Senate must hurry to pass a bill introduced last year or LGBTQ+ residents will be left unprotected for even longer.

Pennsylvania Behind in Protections

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Despite decades of effort, Pennsylvania still does not have a statewide law that explicitly protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast without these protections.

Current Nondiscrimination Law

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The state’s nondiscrimination law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, and religion. However, there is a gap that doesn’t include gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Legislative Journey

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There have been many unsuccessful attempts to pass better nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ+ individuals. However, the efforts have failed to pass completely through the state legislature.

Who’s Pushing for Change?

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Democrats have been the primary force behind pushing for these changes, although many Republicans have also shown support. Many officials argue that acceptance for LGBTQ+ people has grown and the laws need to reflect that in protections.

Introducing HB 300

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In early 2023, House 300 was introduced. This bill aims to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes under Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law.

A Historic Vote

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HB 300 passed the Democrat-controlled House in May 2023. This was a historic vote as it was the first time a bill like that had made it through one of the state legislature chambers.

Stalled in the Senate

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Despite its initial success, the Republican-controlled Senate has yet to consider passing the bill. Its progress has stalled and the bill has not even been brought to a vote, frustrating the many advocates pushing for these protections.

Why the Delay?

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Republicans in the Senate have expressed concerns about the bill. They argue that the bill might blur the lines between differing views and outright discrimination, potentially making the future interpretation and enforcement complicated.

Primary Concerns

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More specifically, some legislators are concerned that the bill could force medical providers to perform procedures that they deem as medically unnecessary. There is also concern about the rules regarding transgender athletes’ participation in sex-segregated sports.

Gap in Federal and State

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Federal law currently covers protection against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in employment. However, housing and education are not covered in federal laws, leaving a gap.

Local Protections

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While some counties and municipalities have created their own nondiscrimination protections, this varies depending on the location. The local protections are often inconsistent and not fully comprehensive.

Need for Uniformity

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Relying on local protections to serve LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians leaves much to be desired. A uniform statewide law is the best way to ensure that all state residents are taken care of and protected, without confusion.

National Context

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In the rest of America, there are 26 other states that do not explicitly include gender identity and sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination laws. Put in the context of the region, Pennsylvania is far behind many other states.

Pennsylvanians Offer Support

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Public support for these protections is strong amongst Pennsylvanians. A 2023 poll by PRRI, a nonprofit public opinion research institute, found that three in four residents support protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. 

Economic Benefits

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Many advocates have pointed to the link between passing more nondiscrimination laws and economic growth. Several studies have shown that states with these protections tend to attract more businesses and tourists.

LGBTQ+ Well-Being

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Nondiscrimination laws have been proven to have positive effects on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. Lower rates of bullying and better mental health among individuals are all tied with more comprehensive legislation.

The Clock Is Ticking

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Pennsylvania lawmakers only have until the end of the legislation session in November to act on HB 300. If they fail to pass the bill by then, they’ll have to start the process over in the next session, delaying protections.

The Election Effect

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The upcoming election could influence the fate of HB 300 and other nondiscrimination laws. If Democrats gain control of the senate, the bill is more likely to pass, whereas if Republicans maintain control, the bill could face more resistance.

Future Protections

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Advocates have emphasized that these protections are safer in state laws, where they cannot be undone easily by our constantly changing political climate. This would provide long-term security for LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Direction of Pennsylvania

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These advancements come with strong public support, economic benefits, and overall improvement for its LGBTQ+ residents. Pennsylvania’s legislators must decide on their next steps: to take action or lag behind its neighbors.

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The post Pennsylvania Still Hasn’t Passed These Protections for Its LGBTQ+ Residents first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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