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In parts of Pennsylvania, a gay couple can get married on Saturday, head to work Monday, put a wedding picture on the desks, and get fired for it.

That’s because although a judge recently ruled Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, it’s still legal to discriminate against someone for being a member of the LGBT community.

On Monday, members of the Legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus held a press conference in Harrisburg once again calling for the passage House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300, both of which would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual identity or orientation. During that conference—additionally attended by faith and business leaders—several lawmakers expressed a deep frustration over the lack of movement on these bills, which actually have 96 co-sponsors in the House, and 25 in the Senate.

“Study after study shows that more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians from all parts of the state support this legislation,” said Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), who acted as something of an emcee to the event and is the primary sponsor of HB 300.

The bills’ original introduction came well over a year ago, and, even then, studies showed that a vast majority of commonwealth citizens supported ending legalized discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

State Sen. Farnese, who spoke next, claimed he had prepared remarks, but was not prepared to actually read them. “Here we are again almost a year later and we’re still advocating and doing another press conference,” the Philadelphia legislator said, sarcastically. “This place needs to get its act together and start moving forward because it is backwards.”

Farnese then noted there was a term he wanted to use before ‘backwards’—but restrained. He noted his, and others standing on stage on Monday was “embarrassing” and said it was “disgusting that there are people in this building,” that are keeping House and Senate Bills 300 from moving forward.

One of those people—although his name was not mentioned out loud, as it rarely is on these issues—is State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Republican chairman of the State Government Committee, who has vowed to not allow a vote on the bill, over which he has control.

State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) similarly invoked Metcalfe in his remarks, noting “one person’s” ideology and faith is keeping the bill from becoming law. House Bill 300 “impacts me personally and professionally every single day of my life.” Sims, the first openly gay legislator ever elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, noted this bill likely has more co-sponsors than any on which he’s ever voted.

“When we go to work each day, we want to be judged on our professionalism, our experience, our performance, and our ability to get the job done,” wrote Ted Martin, head of Equality PA, in a news release this morning. “By working hard, meeting responsibilities and playing by the rules, we strive for a fair chance to achieve a piece of the American Dream. We are only asking to be treated fairly and with dignity.”

Until a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania was the only state in the northeastern United States that did not allow same-sex marriage. Now, we’re the only state in the region that allows discrimination, although many municipalities, including Philadelphia, have taken it upon themselves to outlaw discrimination locally. Gov. Corbett has actually said he would sign this bill into law.

So, what’s the big deal? Opponents of the legislation often rely on transphobic remarks, arguing that passage would allow perverted old men to join young girls in the bathroom. State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon), an openly gay Republican, actually lost his Republican primary this May after a smear campaign against him, which claimed he was in favor of such man-girl bathroom breaks. Fleck won his district’s Democratic primary as a write-in candidate.

About The Author

Staff writer

Randy LoBasso is the winner of the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association's 2014 Distinguished Writing Award for his news and politics coverage at Philadelphia Weekly. He has also contributed to Alt Ledes, Salon, The Guardian and PennLive.

One Response

  1. 6/17 Morning Buzz | PoliticsPA

    […] up 15.5% WHYY Newsworks: 50,000 lose jobless benefits for not signing up on Pa. employment site Phillynow.com: PA Lawmakers ‘frustrated,’ ‘embarrassed’ at lack of LGBT nondiscrimination […]

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