LGBTQ advocates, allies rally at the Capitol for nondiscrimination law

    State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, speaks to LGBTQ advocates and their allies during a rally on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, 10/2/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

    LGBTQ advocates and their allies in the General Assembly rallied on the Capitol steps Tuesday in support of a long-sought bill that would ban housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “We should not be inhibited by people who want to go backward — and we’re not going backward,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, one of two openly gay lawmakers in the General Assembly. “I know you’ll be in this fight. This good music will lead to good engagement with people in this building.”

    Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., prohibit employment and housing discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

    A bill, backed by House Democrats, is now before the chamber’s State Government Committee. The panel’s new chairman, Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, has said he’s not opposed to considering the legislation.

    And though LGBTQ Pennsylvanians — along with the rest of the nation — have had the right to marry since 2015, attendees at Tuesday’s rally noted that it’s still legal for them to be denied employment or housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “You can get married, but you can’t put your wedding picture on your desk because you might get fired,” said Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson, D-Philadelphia. “You deserve equal protection under the law.”

    Pointing to broad public support for such measures, Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, said the Pennsylvania bill would “pass overwhelmingly,” if it were brought to a vote in the Republican-controlled House or Senate. “Each and every one of us needs to speak up. It’s the 21st Century. It’s enough.”

    A March 2019 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed broad, bipartisan support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. The nationwide poll showed 68 percent support for such a measure in Pennsylvania.

    Majorities of liberals (81 percent), moderates (76 percent), and conservatives (55 percent) all favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, the poll showed.

    An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.