State House Sound Bites

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

Despite bipartisan backing, LGBT protections stalled

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 16, 2014 7:56 PM
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Passage is looking unlikely this year for a bill to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The measure would outlaw firing someone from his or her job, evicting someone from his or her home, or not seating people at a restaurant on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Governor Corbett supports it, as do a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

"We don't think this is a trivial matter," said Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), who sponsors the House version of the proposal. He joined other supporters at a Capitol press conference on the measure Monday. Frankel insists the bill can advance, even in the midst of higher-profile negotiations over the state budget, public pensions, and alcohol sales.

"We think this rises to the level of importance... of a state budget," Frankel said. "We ought to be moving forward on ending discrimination in Pennsylvania."

But the bill has stalled in House and Senate committees, to the dismay of people like Jeanine Ruhsam, president of Transcentral PA, a support group for transgender Pennsylvanians.

"I hear all too often tragic stories of the results of discrimination against people solely because their gender identity differs from their biological birth-sex," Ruhsam said.

One panel in particular has all but doomed the bill in the House. The chamber's State Government Committee is chaired by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), who opposes the bill and has said it can't pass a vote of his panel.

Advocates have turned their focus to the more moderate Senate. But sources say the bill is considered a tricky vote, even there, for some Republicans. Supporters are holding out hope the measure could pass this fall, but it's certainly not expected to move before then.

President Obama plans to sign an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination among businesses that contract with the federal government.

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