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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2022 09:42 AM
From: Senator Steven J. Santarsiero and Sen. Nikil Saval
To: All Senate members
Subject: Prohibiting discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or expression
In the near future, we will re-introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. No Pennsylvanian should be fired from a job, or denied housing, or excluded from public spaces because of who they are.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability.  The Act does not cover sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, however.  As a consequence, members of Pennsylvanian’s LGBTQ community still face discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.  It is well past time for the General Assembly to act to address this injustice. 
This legislation is not only the right thing to do, however; it also makes economic sense.  More than 400 companies in Pennsylvania, including some of our largest employers, have non-discrimination policies in place that include sexual orientation and gender identity.  Additionally, all Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Commonwealth have non-discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and most have a gender identity or expression policies as well. These employers recognize that by respecting diversity, they can attract and retain the best workers and maintain a competitive advantage – a key factor in stimulating economic growth.

Pennsylvania should be seen as a place that welcomes any individual who wants to work hard, succeed, and contribute to our economy without the fear of being fired, refused services or denied something as basic as a place to live because of who they are.  Surveys repeatedly show that over 70% of Pennsylvanians agree.
Although there has been an increase in the number of Pennsylvania municipalities that have passed non-discrimination ordinances, without a statewide law, thousands of individuals not residing in one of those towns are not covered.  Further, although the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County applied federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people in matters of employment, significant gaps in the coverage of federal law – e.g., it does not protect those who work at businesses with fewer than 15 workers – make it necessary for Pennsylvania to provide state-level protections.  Other states have recognized that need and have acted.  Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the Northeast that has yet to do so.
The time has come for us to protect all our citizens from discrimination.  Please join us in sponsoring this important legislation.
If you have any questions, please contact Cory Smith of Santarsiero’s office at 717-787-7305 or at cory.smith@pasenate.com.

Introduced as SB150