State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

For anti-discrimination bill, no hearing at the end of the rainbow

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 14, 2013 6:42 PM
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A proposal to ban the discrimination of gay Pennsylvanians and others appears destined to die in committee. The measure would prohibit the discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation and identity.

It was recently referred to the House's State Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), the larger chamber's most outspoken conservative. The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Mark Cohen (Philadelphia), requested a hearing on the measure in a letter to Metcalfe.

"Because of this issue's importance, public support and widespread House member and Senate
member support, I hope it is possible to have an official dialogue on this issue, beginning with a
public hearing in Harrisburg," wrote Cohen.

Metcalfe said Wednesday he will not schedule a hearing on the bill because he already knows it wouldn't muster majority support on the panel (it seats 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats). Therefore, he suggested, holding a hearing would be a waste of time.

"One of my members actually said that we should bring [the bill] up just to defeat it," said Metcalfe. "But I don't bring up bills just to defeat them."

He added the proposal wouldn't come without discrimination of someone.

"I think the discrimination is being turned around on people of faith," Metcalfe said. "As an individual who is a Christian, and knowing many others around the commonwealth and around the country, we shouldn't be forced to accept their lifestyle in our homes and in our businesses if we choose not to."

House Bill 300, as its Democratic author recently pointed out, has a record number of co-sponsors - from both parties.

The anti-discrimination measure has been the front-and-center issue of Equality PA, the state's top advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians. According to the group, 16 other states and Washington D.C. have such a law.

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