LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus introduces PA Fairness Act

Proposal would enshrine protections for LGBTQ+ individuals into state law

HARRISBURG, June 15 – In order to extend protection from discrimination to LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, lawmakers in the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus unveiled the PA Fairness Act on Tuesday. They were joined by Gov. Tom Wolf and Ciora Thomas, founder of Pittsburgh-based SisTers PGH, an LGBTQ+ community organization.

The PA Fairness Act, also known as H.B. 300, is sponsored by Reps. Dan Frankel and Jessica Benham, both D-Allegheny, along with Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Brian Sims, both D-Phila. If passed, the PA Fairness Act would prohibit discrimination against an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the commonwealth, providing a long-overdue update to Pennsylvania’s law.

“The Fairness Act is popular with voters and virtually guaranteed to pass the Pennsylvania House and Senate. I’ve been fighting for civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people for more than two decades, and all we need to get it across the finish line is for GOP leaders to schedule the votes,” said Frankel, founder and current co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, ruling that an employer cannot discriminate against an individual because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s a historic victory, but that ruling still leaves the door open for other discrimination against LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians. If passed, the Keystone State would become the 23rd state in the nation that protects its LGBTQ+ residents.

Sponsors and supporters of the bill said it’s unacceptable that legislation like this hasn’t been passed in Pennsylvania yet, and it needs to be done as soon as possible to make sure the commonwealth is a safe place for all to live, work and play.

Sen. Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks: “It is unacceptable that in Pennsylvania, in the year 2021, it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. We should all be ashamed of that, and actively fight to make our Commonwealth an inclusive place for all residents. We must stand up for all Pennsylvanians and ensure that no person is discriminated against because of who they are, and who they love.”

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila.: “With tremendous support in both chambers and across the commonwealth, it is unbelievable that we have not passed LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania. It is time for my Republican colleagues to heed Governor Wolf’s, and the peoples’, call to pass the Fairness Act and ensure that all citizens have equal protections under the law.”

Sen. Nikil Saval, D-Phila.: “The absence of this legislation is a fundamental injustice, leaving huge gaps in the protections we afford to vulnerable Pennsylvanians. The rights to housing, to work, to basic accommodations are human rights. While it is unfathomable that this law does not yet exist, it is an honor and a joy to stand with members of the LGBTQIA community and demand that we, as a state, do better.”

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila.: “LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians have long faced the brunt of economic disenfranchisement and social ostracization, including violence; and still remain widely under protected. It is an absolute embarrassment that in 2021 in this commonwealth that gender identity and sexual orientation are weaponized to deny residents economic autonomy and a decent quality of life. Codifying the same civil rights rendered in last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling into the Pennsylvania constitution through the Fairness Act finally provides and solidifies the dignity and humanity that LGBTQ+ people are owed across this commonwealth.”

Rep. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny: "Passing the Pennsylvania Fairness Act will provide long-needed protections and affirmation to our communities who have, for so long, fought to be recognized, accepted, and protected by the Commonwealth. As one of the few openly LGBTQIA+ legislators, this issue is personal for me. The introduction of this act is the first step in what I am hopeful will be a swift legislative process to assure equal rights under the PA Constitution.”

The PA Fairness Act has four prime sponsors and 65 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It’s been referred to the House State Government Committee where it awaits further action.