Lack of state law leaves gaps in LGBTQ protections

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Oct 31, 2017 3:51 AM

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(Harrisburg) -- A recent report from a civil rights organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community shows Pennsylvania has room to improve when it comes to equality.

Forty-four Pennsylvania communities have passed ordinances to protect members of the LGBTQ  community from discrimination. But, not all of them offer the same level of protection, and the legislature has failed to pass a statewide nondiscrimination law for LGBTQ people.

John Dawe, interim executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, said because there isn't a statewide law, only half of the commonwealth's population is protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We're basically saying, if you move here and live and work in the wrong place, you can be fired for being who you are or who you love," Dawe said. 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's annual index is scored out of 100 points. 

The city of Harrisburg only scored 56 points, even though it's had a nondiscrimination measure in place since 1983.

Carlisle passed its ordinance last year, but scored 72 points for efforts to report LGBTQ-targeted hate crimes and include the community in city programs.

Dawe said it's important for cities to pass their own ordinances in the absence of a state law, but that leaves gaps in protections. 

"You can work in Harrisburg, Carlisle, or Camp Hill and be protected in your job from being fired for being LGBTQ, then you could go home to New Cumberland and be evicted from your home," he said.

Dawe is also concerned by the Senate's recent move to exclude certain services for transgender children in a reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program.

He said the move sends a dangerous message that the commonwealth is not welcoming to LGBTQ families.

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