The Pennsylvania state flag. (Photo: Adobe Stock)
By Jason Villemez
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission announced on June 20 an update to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act that will provide protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The new regulation, which will take effect on Aug. 16, covers discrimination in employment, housing, commercial property, education and public accommodations.
The new regulation updates the PHRA definition of “sex” — which is among its protected classes — to include pregnancy status, childbirth status, breastfeeding status, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development.
The regulation states that the update “is consistent with the manner in which the term ”sex,” as used in Title VII and Title IX, have been interpreted by Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.” The Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that employees are protected against discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The updated PHRA definition was approved last month by the PA Office of Attorney General.
“This is a great day for all Pennsylvanians,” PHRC Chairperson M. Joel Bolstein said in a statement. “All discrimination is wrong and the PHRC is pleased to see these regulations approved, guaranteeing Pennsylvanians the safety and security of knowing the Commonwealth will stand with them and protect them against acts of discrimination.”
Other LGBTQ+ advocates were quick to bring up that the Fairness Act, which passed the Pa. House in March and now sits in committee in the Republican-led Senate, still needs passage in order to further guarantee nondiscrimination protections.
“I applaud PHRC for continuing to move the needle forward to ensure that every single Pennsylvanian is treated with dignity and respect,” state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Gay News. “As laudable as today’s action is, we must use this as momentum to finally pass the PA Fairness Act, which I sponsored. This bill, decades in the making, passed with bipartisan support and the Senate should move it swiftly.”
Jason Villemez is the editor of the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.
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