Passage is looking unlikely this year for a bill aimed at ending 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.
Gov. Tom 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. Joining other supporters at a Capitol press conference on the measure Monday, he insisted it 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, certainly on the same level, 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 including 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 committee 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 said that it can’t pass a vote of his panel.
Advocates have turned their focus to the more moderate Senate. But sources say it’s considered a tricky vote there for some Senate Republicans. Supporters say they’re holding out hope the measure could pass this fall, but it’s not expected to move before then.
In the meantime, President Obama plans to sign an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination among businesses that contract with the federal government.