Commentary

As states move on anti-trans bills, Pa.’s LGBTQ residents are still vulnerable to discrimination | Friday Morning Coffee

March 12, 2021 7:21 am

(City of Philadelphia Fliickr)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves defied reason, compassion, and the constitution as he signed into law the first bill of 2021 institutionalizing discrimination against transgender residents in his state.

As the Human Rights Campaign notes, the bill that Reeves had vowed to sign bans transgender athletes from participating in sports that are consistent with their gender identification. In other words, this is the same old, lame old “transgender women aren’t really women, and shouldn’t be allowed to compete against women.”

It’s an assertion that is so bottomlessly wrong and depthlessly stupid that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just remind readers: Transgender women are women and have every right to compete in their chosen sport.

The Biden administration already has said such bills, now under consideration in dozens of states, are illegal under federal law, LGBTQ Nation reported earlier this weekPresident Joe Biden also signed an executive order on his first day in office declaring that federal civil rights law that bans gender-based discrimination also bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

“The president believes that trans rights are human rights and that no one should be discriminated on the basis of sex. Not only is this the law of the land, it’s his own deeply held view,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefingaccording to LGBTQ Nation.

(Map via Freedom for All Americans)

As you can see from the map above, compiled by the advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, Pennsylvania has yet to join the shameful ranks of states pursuing this hateful and destructive legislation.

The operative word here is, “yet,” since it’s entirely possible to imagine some trollish members of the General Assembly who might cook up just such a bill. In any event, the legislation would face a guaranteed gubernatorial veto — but Gov. Tom Wolf won’t be governor forever.

And if you’re looking for a good primer on how hurtful and destructive these bills are, and how they slot into a hateful narrative against transgender youth, this Medium column by the ACLU’s Chase Strangio is an excellent place to start.

“When anti-trans advocates claim that all trans women and girls are boys and must compete on boys teams, they are, in essence, asking the state to coerce people into being cisgender,” Strangio wrote. “That is to say, if you tell a young person that they cannot be who they are and in order to enjoy the benefits of their education they must exist in accordance with their assigned sex at birth, then you are instructing the state to engage in a process of coerced conversion therapy. And all the science we have demonstrates that not affirming trans and gender expansive kids in who they are results in catastrophic mental health consequences including devastating rates of suicidality.”

And, again, while this debate has yet to rear its ugly head in Pennsylvania, now seems like as good a time to once again bring up the fact that all of the Keystone State’s LGBTQ residents remain vulnerable to housing, education, employment and accommodation discrimination, and that it’s long past time for lawmakers to correct that oversight.

(Getty Images)

That state-level protection is all the more important given the uncertain fate of the Equality Act, the LGTBQ anti-discrimination legislation that the majority-Democrat U.S. House passed last month.

As the Capital-Star’s Frank Pizzoli wrote last month, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled General Assembly face-planted  — again — when it was given an opportunity to extend legal protections to the state’s LGBTQ residents.

In the House, state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, long a voice for civil rights, has joined with three out lawmakers, Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Brian Sims, of Philadelphia, and  newly elected  Rep. Jessica Benham, of Allegheny County, to make a renewed push for the Fairness Act, as it’s come to be known.

“Pennsylvania’s lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law is an embarrassment to this commonwealth and a deterrent for workers and businesses who could help grow our economy,” the three lawmakers wrote in a March 1 memo seeking support for their proposal.

Given the groundswell of hate in other states, it sadly seems like only a matter of time before a right-wing legislator with his or her eyes on higher office, makes the cynical and hateful calculation to try to take rights away from Pennsylvania’s transgender youth.

Lawmakers can head that off by finally passing the Fairness Act.

But they won’t get there by themselves. Gov. Tom Wolf has to put the full power of his office behind such a push, and advocates have to speak evenly more loudly and clearly to make their voices heard. It’s once again time to say, loud and clear, that hate has no place in Pennsylvania.

And then make it the law. Finally.

John L. Micek | Editor-in-Chief

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 runs down what you need to know about the dispute over the state Department of Transportation’s plan to toll nine bridges across Pennsylvania to pay for road and bridge repairs.

State Rep. Jason Ortitay, a Republican from western Pennsylvania, tells Stephen Caruso he’s looking into running for governor in 2022, or perhaps beyond that.

A new mass vaccination clinic in Lancaster County administered 500 doses on its first day; as officials look for an increased supply, Correspondent Lauren Manelius reports.

President Joe Biden has directed states to make the COVD-19 vaccine available to all U.S. adults by May 1Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson writes.

LGBTQ advocates are rallying around a former St. Joseph’s University employee who’s filed an anti-bias suit, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page today, the workers who put the food on your tables need the COVID-19 vaccine now, two Pennsylvania meatpacking workers write. Vaccinated and ready to party? Not so fast, says the CDC, but you can gather with other vaccinated people, a University of Virginia expert writes. And Congress needs to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize ActRick Bloomingdale and Frank Snyder of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO argue.

En la Estrella-Capital: el Republicano de MontCo, Jeff Bartosanuncia su candidatura al Senado de los Estados Unidos en el 2022. Gov. Tom Wolf nombra a una Ginecóloga- Obstetra para servir como nueva Médica General de Pa. Y las personas de trabajo que ponen comida en nuestra mesa necesitan la vacuna COVID-19 ya.

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, speaks with Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon).

Elsewhere.
Delaware County will get a fresh infusion of COVID-19 vaccine from Washington — not Harrisburg, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District has said. The Inquirer has the story.
Pittsburgh restaurants are guardedly optimistic at the first anniversary of the pandemic, the Post-Gazette reports.
Pennsylvania is set to lift its moratorium on utility shut offs, the Associated Press reports (via PennLive).
The Morning Call explains how much federal stimulus money the Lehigh Valley will receive.
The Citizens’ Voice talks to a teacher about her experience during the pandemic.
Residents of at least 12 Pennsylvania counties have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, the York Dispatch reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


Gov. Tom Wolf is pessimistic about his stimulus spending hopes for Pennsylvania, WHYY-FM reports.
Despite the pandemic, House and Senate Republicans have slated pricey retreats at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA reports (via WITF-FM).
Erie bars are bracing for St. Patrick’s Day, GoErie reports.
The pandemic is driving ‘right to repair’ bills for phones and computers, Stateline.org.
Roll Call has the top takeaways 
from President Joe Biden’s primetime speech on Thursday.

What Goes On.
9:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: School voucher advocates rally
11 a.m, Capitol Steps: ‘Caregivers for Compromise,’ rally

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Kirstin Snow, of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center, who celebrates today. Congratulations.

Show Them Some Love Dept.
Students at one suburban Pittsburgh high school recently put up a sculpture spelling out ‘LOVE’ at Aspinwall Riverfront Park. It’s one of a series of public art projects, the Post-Gazette reports.

Racism in Pa. school district.
Accusations of institutionalized racism in the Biglerville schools in Adams County, which we’ve previously written about, will be the subject of a community forum on SaturdayPennLive reports.

The Price of the Pandemic.
The Morning Call
 runs down some of the more popular Lehigh Valley businesses that closed their doors during the pandemic.

Heavy Rotation.
We’ll ease into the weekend with this chill cut from Fatnotronic, featuring Felipe Sa. Here’s ‘Formula 1.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina bested Nashville 5-1 on Thursday night to notch their seventh, straight win. The ‘Canes’ Morgan Geekie scored twice on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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