This morning, the Pennsylvania legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus held a news conference to introduce its new membership and to release results from a new poll that shows an uptick in voter opinion about equal rights for the Commonwealth’s LGBT citizens.
State Rep. Dan Frankel kicked off the proceedings with an announcement that the Caucus — the only state equality caucus in the nation — has more than doubled since it’s last session. There are now 58 bipartisan members, which, he says, “reflects the changing will of people in Pennsylvania when it comes to simple fairness for the LGBT people.” But even though this marks progress in the state, he reminded, Pennsylvania has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to insuring rights for its gay brothers and sisters. “We’re sitting in a state where the last vestige of legalized discrimination against LGBT people still exists and its an embarrassment,” he says.
The meeting was a grim reminder that we live in one of the least protective state’s in the nation when it comes to LGBT rights. During the session, caucus member Rep. Brian Sims touched on the fact that LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs or kicked out hotel rooms or bars simply for being gay. “Every single state we touch has taken proactive efforts to protect its LGBT citizens,” says Sims, “and it’s time Pennsylvania do the same.”
But don’t worry; it’s not all gloom and doom. Equality Pennsylvania executive producer Ted Martin showed up with results from a CivicScience for Equality Pennsylvania poll that suggests “a rapid shift in attitude that is overtaking Pennsylvania.” Here are the results:
- 62 percent of Pennsylvania voters agree that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens should be entitled to the same civil rights and protections as other minority groups.
- 69 percent agree that LGBT citizens should be protected against being fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes support from 61 percent of self-identified Republicans.
- 72 percent agree that hotels and other businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to people based only on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes support from 62 percent of self-identified Republicans.
Over the next year, Rep. Frankel says the committee will put forth a number of LGBT-centric bills. High on the list is the reintroduction of H.B. 300, “which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.” He also mentioned making an aggressive push to pass legislation regarding hate crimes, marriage equality, inheritance rights and an anti-bullying bill.