September 16, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - In honor of Constitution Day, September 17, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is releasing a report card on the state of civil liberties in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania earned an overall grade of "C-", with its lowest marks in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, immigrants' rights, and the death penalty. Pennsylvania's new Right to Know Law earned the state its highest grade - a "B".

"The Constitution was born in Pennsylvania, but the commonwealth is lagging behind in advancing civil rights and freedom," said Andy Hoover, ACLU-PA Legislative Director. "Many of our neighboring states are moving forward on issues like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender equality, welcoming immigrants, and giving up on the death penalty. Pennsylvania can and should do better."

The report paints a troubling picture of LGBT rights in Pennsylvania, where it is still legal in most of the state to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation. Almost all of Pennsylvania's neighboring states provide legal protections for their LGBT residents.

One of the few bright spots on the civil liberties landscape in Pennsylvania is the Right to Know Law, which easily won the "most improved" subject award. The new Right to Know Law took effect in January 2009 and replaced what had been one of the worst open records laws in the country.

Other issues receiving grades were reproductive rights ("C") and voting rights ("B-").