BREAKING: Human Rights Campaign Applauds Pennsylvania House for Bipartisan Passage of Civil Rights Law That Guarantees Protections for LGBTQ+ People

by Laurel Powell

Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — commends the Pennsylvania House for the bipartisan passage of The Fairness Act, House Bill 300, legislation that, once enacted, will enshrine in law nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents of the Commonwealth. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t explicitly prohibit denying someone a job or housing or service simply because they are LGBTQ+. Currently, 28 states lack nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, after Michigan put protections in place in March of this year.

Last November, Equality Voters in Pennsylvania sent a clear message that LGBTQ+ people are entitled to the same dignity, rights and protections as all Pennsylvanians. The people of Pennsylvania elected more pro-equality lawmakers than ever before and chose a Governor who will partner with them to end anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. The more than 3 million Equality Voters in Pennsylvania are grateful for the leadership of Representative Kenyatta and Representative Benham as well as those who have fought tirelessly alongside our community on this issue for decades to finally ensure Pennsylvania law says it is safe for LGBTQ+ families to live and work as their true selves. We thank the House for their leadership in passing The Fairness Act and encourage the Senate to swiftly bring this bill to a vote.

Ryan Matthews, HRC Pennsylvania State Director

With nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people having reported experiencing discrimination in their personal lives, this bill would guarantee that LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians are extended the same nondiscrimination protections that other Pennsylvanians have enjoyed for decades.

According to the latest data this year from PRRI, support for LGBTQ+ rights is on the rise in Pennsylvania and nationwide: 77% of Commonwealth residents support nondiscrimination protections, and 65% of Pennsylvania residents oppose refusal of service on religious grounds. About eight in ten Americans (80%) favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This reflects a dramatic increase in the proportion of Americans who support nondiscrimination protections since 2015, when it was 71%.

Pennsylvania voters elected a pro-equality majority to take control of the House in November 2022, ending 12 years of anti-equality control. This victory was made possible in part by the Commonwealth’s Equality Voters — a group numbering more than 3 million in Pennsylvania — voters modeled to support LGBTQ+ equality. They represented 38 percent of the 2022 electorate nationally and in Pennsylvania, a number that reflects the growing political strength of this voting bloc, and tend to be younger and more racially diverse than the electorate as a whole.

The Fairness Act arrives as other states across the country are headed in the exact opposite direction, moving to restrict LGBTQ+ rights and unfairly discriminate through legislation.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 125 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 13 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota.

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 40 anti-drag performance bills.

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.
More than 300 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed in states across the country. Major employers in tech, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, and other sectors are joining with a unified voice to say discrimination is bad for business and to call on lawmakers to abandon these efforts. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.