Equality in Pennsylvania tied to economy, growth

House Democrats support closing the wage gap and ending discrimination statewide in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression

In Pennsylvania, we are protected against discrimination based on age, gender, race, cultural background and religious affiliation – but are not protected if lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In Pennsylvania, a person can be fired or refused housing or a public accommodation such as a library based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Without a statewide act to address such civil inequities, advocates are left to lobby each of Pennsylvania’s 2,562 municipalities to create laws locally protecting gay and transgender Pennsylvanians from being denied housing and local services due to discrimination. We can and must do a much more efficient job of it at the state level.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed executive orders that will protect state employees under his jurisdiction, as well as employees of contractors doing business with the state, from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity.  

New laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that expressly permit businesses and other groups to discriminate against LGBT residents are causing great controversy and have had serious economic repercussions in those states. What many people don't realize is that in Pennsylvania it is already legal for an employer to fire an employee based on his spouse, or a business to deny service or accommodations to someone because of her sexual orientation. That's something some legislators have been trying to fix for years, most recently with H.B. 1510.  

Pennsylvania's economic growth is below average, ranking a dismal 31st out of all 50 states. If we want to enhance our economy, we not only need to keep Pennsylvania residents living in Pennsylvania communities, but also attract the best and brightest to our state. But when the Republican majority cheats its own citizens of rights and denies equal opportunity for everyone, we irrevocably harm Pennsylvania's appeal.

All Pennsylvanians should have the opportunity to work hard, contribute to society and provide for themselves and their families. If Pennsylvania treats everyone fairly and equally under the law, Pennsylvania's economy will do better. When our economy does better, our residents do better.