The Current Status of Equality Legislation in Pennsylvania

I grabbed this snippet summary from HRC:

In May, Pennsylvania House Bill  1434 was introduced which would propose and amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution reading:” Marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.” The bill did not move from the State Government Committee though technically the Legislature is in session until the end of this month. Pennsylvania also has a carryover session, meaning the bill can be considered in 2012.  A constitutional amendment must pass two consecutive legislative sessions before it can be put before the voters.

So, no movement from a committee chaired by Rep Darryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) seems like a good thing. I’m fairlycertain if I did a man on the street survey, marriage equality would not make the top 10 statewide issues regardless of their personal beliefs on the matter.

Add to that the fact that HB 300, Frankel’s Anti-Discrimination bill, is also sitting in the State Government … that’s a lot of gay agenda on their plate. It has been sitting there since April 2011. Will it come to a committee vote?  With the loss of State Representative Chelsa Wagner, a key cosponsor (and our rep) …. what impact will that have?

  • Senator Brown’s companion Bill in the Senate has been sitting in State Government committee since May 2011. (SB 105o if you are keeping track)
  • Same with Senator Farnese’s similar bill. That’s been in committee since April. (SB 910)
  • Hate Crime legislation expanded only to sexual orientation by Rep Harhai has been in Judiciary since May (HB 1535)
  • Another Hate Crimes Bill sponsored by Rep Depasquale in Judiciary since March (HB 899)
  • Senator Ferlos’ companion Hate Crimes legislation in Judiciary since March (SB 586)
  • Hate Crimes Bill in house INCLUDING GENDER IDENTITY by Rep Shapiro in Judiciary since April (HB 1372)
  • Senator Ferlo has also introduced a Pennsylvania Health Care Plan that includes protections based on sexual orientation AND has provisions to ensure persons for whom English is not their primary language have good information. That legislation is before the Comittee on Banking and Insurance as of October (HB 400)
  • Senator Washington has introduced legislation to add an anti-bullying bill of rights  that DOES include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It has been in Education since April (SB 191)
  • A companion HB introduced by Rep Briggs on the topic of bullying. Also includes the best protected class language (HB 1805)
  • And a sexual education bill sponsored by Rep Wagner now in the Education Committee (HB 416)

That’s ten pieces of legislation that are LGBTQ positive.  Yes, they are all in committees, perhaps not to see the light of a Floor vote — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I didn’t dig deep into the co-sponsors, but there seems to be a solid block of legislators who support LGBTQ rights and that’s bound to be working for us being the scenes as well as in the public act of submitting legislation.

As a community, it is important that we demand inclusion of “gender identity” and “gender expression” in these bills.  We are a community, not islands of individual sexualities and genders. If you took note of the horrific violence men and women in the trans community endured this past year (Sunday was the Trans Day of Remembrance) you can not help but realize Hate Crimes legislation is almost pointless without those terms.

And as Ledcat likes to point out, it is perception that drives many assaults – heterosexual women dressed “butch” or women “perceived” to be transgender.  You need only look back a few months to the stunning display of ignorance by WPXI when reporting a crime involving biological male suspects who were identifying as women. “Transvestites?” Really, WPXI?

Further examples that we cannot simply say “go forth and protect us” to our legislators. We need to help them craft legislation that is inclusive and impactful. Focusing on protections in the workplace and the general public is a very good foundation. I like the inclusion of educational systems and certainly the health care legislation. I am also pleased that we aren’t losing site of these building blocks toward full equality.

So the session ends soon, but the bills will still be alive in 2012. The battle over redistricting and the 2012 elections enter the mix. My State House district might be sacrificed which is sad. But to some extent it makes more sense to connect Manchester with other Northside communities (unless you attend community meetings and see that the disconnect is alive and well.) Even linking with the Hill District could be constructive (unless you again attend those community meetings.)   Wheatley  is cosponsoring some of these bills.

Not sure about Ravenstahl. No on anti-discrimination. No on hate crimes. No on bullying. No on sexual education. How would he vote? Well, clearly, we don’t know. But his lack of co-sponsorship on a single piece of LGBTQ positive legislation does not bode well.

Uh oh.

Am I going to spend the next 4 or 6 years focusing on him?

Anyway. This is the state of legislation. I urge you to click through to the topics that are of most interest to you and your family. Then you can easily find the contact information to contact the appropriate member of the General Assembly. I will help you if you need me to do so.

Love to see the Families Like Ours group get active on the education bills.  Children from LGBTQ parented families are often targeted by bullies, too.

So let’s get busy …