A Landmark Step Toward LGBTQ+ Equality in Pennsylvania: House Judiciary Committee Advances Nondiscrimination Legislation

by HRC Staff

The Fairness Act Will Move to Consideration by Full Membership of House;
Would Explicitly Protect LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians From Many Forms of Discrimination, From Housing to Public Accommodations to Employment

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee today advanced The Fairness Act, House Bill 300, legislation that, once enacted, will enshrine in law nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents of the Commonwealth. In response, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — praised the committee’s backing for the legislation and urged its swift passage by the full House of Representatives.

Human Rights Campaign Pennsylvania State Director Ryan Matthews released the following statement in response to the committee’s passage of HB300:

“Most Pennsylvanians would be embarrassed to know the Commonwealth is the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t explicitly prohibit denying someone a job or housing or service simply because they are LGBTQ+. The introduction of The Fairness Act this month is a golden opportunity for the new pro-equality majority in the Pennsylvania House to show that they are going to deliver for the millions of voters who elected them in November to take action on long-neglected priorities like this bill. We thank Representatives Kenyatta and Benham for their leadership in introducing this milestone legislation, and Governor Shapiro for his commitment to listening to our community. We look forward to the full House taking action soon to pass this essential bill.”

The bill passed the committee on a party line vote of 12-9, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.

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%.

Currently, 28 states lack nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, after Michigan put protections in place in March of this year. In the absence of such protections, landlords, employers, businesses and more can — and do — choose to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.. Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people have reported experiencing discrimination in their personal lives.

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. So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 210 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 120 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 12 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.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email press@hrc.org.