Rep. Dan B. Frankel, State Representative, 23rd Legislative District
I’m sorry I can’t be here today in person to commend Allegheny County for addressing this critical issue of fairness under the law; but I wanted to put it on record that I very much hope you’ll see fit to create a Human Relations Commission for Allegheny County.
Pennsylvanians have already decided that discrimination is wrong.
We’ve decided that it’s wrong when people discriminate based on the color of someone’s skin; whether they get around with the assistance of a wheelchair or a seeing eye dog; or whether they pray in a church, a synagogue, or a mosque.
It’s time to recognize, as a community, that it’s also wrong to discriminate based on who somebody falls in love with, or how they express their gender.
As the prime sponsor of House Bill 300, which would extend protection from discrimination to the LGBT community for all Pennsylvanians, I often get asked whether or not the problem of discrimination is real. I can tell you that it is.
My office gets calls from as far away as the Philadelphia suburbs to report instances of discrimination. And as recent as two weeks ago, a Pennsylvania State Senator, Senator Eichelberger, said publicly about lesbians and gay couples that Pennsylvania “Lets them exist.” He implied that it’s enough that Pennsylvania doesn’t consider someone gay or lesbian a criminal just for having a relationship with their partner.
Well, it’s not enough.
Our LGBT friends, neighbors, taxpayers, business-owners, landlords, tenants and employees deserve much better. They deserve the right to be public about their relationships and identities, without fear that they could be fired, or kicked out of their homes. They deserve to go into a restaurant and not worry about being refused service, just because they’re holding hands.
The Human Relations Commission will ultimately benefit all residents of Allegheny County, because young people want to live in diverse, inclusive communities. Straight and gay individuals alike want to start businesses in places where fairness is the law. Already, the majority of Fortune 500 companies, as well as 3 of our bordering states, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, have non-discrimination laws that protect the LGBT community. A majority of Pennsylvanians know that gender identity and sexual orientation have nothing to do with putting in a good days work.
I hope that you will take leadership and create a commission that will help protect lesbians, gays, and transgender people from discrimination. And I hope Pennsylvania will soon follow to protect those many people living outside the county borders.