September 19, 2011

HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee will convene a hearing today on legislation to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents and visitors to the commonwealth. In advance of the hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania called on state legislators of both parties to get behind the effort to pass House Bill 300.

"The passage of this bill is long overdue," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The business community, many local governments, and the people of Pennsylvania are strongly behind this common sense prohibition of discrimination."

HB 300, introduced by Rep. Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh, would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the state's non-discrimination law, to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" as protected classes. In April, Equality Pennsylvania released the results of a poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research that showed 69 percent of Pennsylvanians support a state law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people with just 24 percent opposed. This finding has been consistent since polling first started on this issue in 2003.

The poll also found strong majority support when the data was broken down into six local regions of the state.

The effort to outlaw LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania has gained momentum at the local level in the last two years. When HB 300 was last introduced in March of 2009, 13 municipalities in Pennsylvania had comprehensive non-discrimination ordinances. Today 22 municipalities have such ordinances, covering approximately 30 percent of the state's population. Last week Springfield Township in Montgomery County became the latest municipality to prohibit LGBT discrimination.

All 27 Fortune 500 companies based in Pennsylvania have non-discrimination policies that include at least sexual orientation.

"It's time for the legislature to catch up with the rest of Pennsylvania," Hoover said. "The only reason to oppose this bill is to satisfy a narrow special interest that doesn't like gay people."

Today's hearing will begin at 2pm in room 418 of the main capitol in Harrisburg. Witnesses testifying in favor of HB 300 will include Jeffrey Harbison, the president of the Springfield Township board of supervisors; Erica Leigh Gabor, a Marine corps veteran who served in Iraq; Jenna Mehnert of the National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania chapter; Evan Urbania of the Independence Business Alliance; and Ted Martin of Equality Pennsylvania.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is a member of the Value All Families Coalition, a coalition comprised of diverse statewide, regional, and local organizations that support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.