HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission today passed a new regulation from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission defining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The PHRC is responsible for enforcing the commonwealth’s nondiscrimination laws, including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which bars discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The regulation is in line with the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the court held that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity in enforcing federal law. Pennsylvania state law goes further than federal law by prohibiting discrimination by businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants and hotels.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has worked for at least two decades for a change to state law to bar discrimination against LGBTQ people. The following can be attributed to Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“The approval of this new rule is an important step toward ending the unfair treatment of LGBTQ people at work, in renting or buying a home, and in businesses that are open to the public. We’ve made significant strides in barring this type of discrimination in the courts and through local ordinances. Explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in the definition of sex discrimination is another important step. Ultimately, the General Assembly should pass legislation to bar discrimination against LGBTQ Pennsylvanians so that it will be enshrined into state statute and will not be subject to the whims of a future governor.”
The following can be attributed to Naiymah Sanchez, trans rights organizer at the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“We’ve seen recent increases in harassment and attacks on transgender and nonbinary people at schools, in the halls of power, and in the streets. Ending discrimination against trans, nonbinary, and LGBQ people doesn’t come with the passage of one regulation or one bill or with one court ruling. But this new rule is a step forward. It puts anyone who thinks about discriminating against us on notice. Discrimination is illegal and will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania. We have another tool at our disposal for challenging and ending discrimination so that we can just live our lives in peace and as we see fit.”