EAST FALLS LOCAL ARTICLE: Come grow old with me and be your genuine LGBT…Q

East Falls Local
Pam’s Perspective
Oct. 1

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act currently prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability. However, this same act does not include this basic level of protection for our LGBTQ+ citizens.

I was reminded of this fact, (not that I need the reminder), at the August 29th Long term Care Council meeting – not a usual place for this discussion.

One of our council members represents consumers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community who are older adults, citizens of this commonwealth and utilize any number of services along the continuum of care, from housing to home care to skilled nursing care.

The council member shared the need for cultural competency training as it pertains to LGBTQ+ consumers and the need for those consumers to feel safe and free to be their genuine selves when looking for and receiving services.

The council member further advised that it would go a long way to helping LGBTQ+ consumers feel safe and secure if legislation were passed that provided these anti-discrimination protections.

HB1404 is the proposed legislation to accomplish this task.  When I mention the need for this bill, I am usually met by surprise that these protections are not already the law of the land. It is not the law of the land- at the federal or state level, although some Pennsylvania municipalities have enacted these protections. For well over a decade, this legislation has been introduced but never called for a vote.

Not to mention, we are the only state in the Northeast without these basic protections.

This legislation would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Previous bills when introduced in the House had strong bipartisan support. HB1404 was referred to the State Government Committee on May 6, 2019 and as of this writing has 89 co-sponsors with only two of those co-sponsors from the majority party.

As a member of the State Government Committee, I am glad to know that our new majority chairman, Representative Garth Everett, is interested in discussing this bill; a first in my time on this committee.

Benefits of passing this legislation include making our state a stronger economic competitor in attracting the highly skilled millennial workforce.

I suspect that many of my constituents agree that Pennsylvania’s current and future workforce deserves to be judged based on their qualifications to do the work — nothing more, nothing less.

Pennsylvania should welcome any individual who wants to work hard, succeed and contribute to our economy, without the fear of being fired or refused services simply because of who they are or who they love.

And as a result of the discussion at the recent Long Term Care Council, I will now always include the fact that our senior LGBTQ+ citizens deserve to feel safe and welcome when looking for services too.

In the past I have worked diligently to sign up co-sponsors and advocate for passage of this bill and will continue to do so during this session.

LGBTQ+ men and women are not strangers living in the shadows – they are our parents, sons, daughters, siblings, friends, co-workers, clergy, health care providers, first responders, elected officials, and OLDER citizens.

They play integral roles in our communities and should be afforded basic protections under the law. This legislative effort is years old, and it is time for this to become law.?Surveys indicate that over 70% of Pennsylvanians support amending state law to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

I applaud Governor Wolf’s Executive Order 2019-05 Protection of Vulnerable Populations.  LGBTQ+ seniors are identified specifically and perhaps the Council on Reform that is responsible for operationalizing this order will quickly add its voice to the call to pass this legislation.