In a move that implies the changing dynamics of Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett announced his support for legislation that would expand non-discrimination protection to the LGBTQ community. HB 300 and its companion bill would expand the scope of the state Human Relations Law to include sexual orientation and gender identity in matters of employment, housing and public accommodation.
Corbett, who has previously staked out conservative positions on social issues, told The Inquirer that he was “coming out in support” of the bill after learning that federal law does not cover discrimination in the state.
“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” said Corbett, who served for eight years as the state’s attorney general. “The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
Corbett’s support of legislation that has languished in the General Assembly for a decade is viewed by many advocates as a major step forward on a civil rights issue.
Now, it is ridiculous that the former Attorney General claims he didn’t grasp how non-discrimination law worked. And it’s equally ridiculous (and probably true) that he claims to have no idea how to actually get the legislation passed under the Metcalfe reign of terror. (State Rep Metcalfe chairs the committee holding the bill hostage and bows to no one.)
However, let’s not jump down Corbett’s throat for not suddenly supporting marriage equality, too. That doesn’t even make sense as an expectation from a man who compared our relationships to incest a few months ago. No one turns around that fast even with a reelection bid on the horizon. So just stop.
Marriage equality does not exist in any state that does not have non-discrimination protections. Non-discrimination has a 72% approval rating in PA and the issue often seems to be that people mistakenly believe the laws already exist. Ask the next five people you encounter if its legal to fire someone because they are gay and see what they think. Then ask them if it should be legal to fire someone if they are gay.
I want a Governor with a plan to go back to his party and LEAD, not one who suddenly embraces progressive (centrist?) issues in media interviews and then goes on his merry way. Surely, Corbett can work with Speaker of the House to reassign the bill to a committee where it will get a fair hearing. If he can’t, is that someone we want to reelect? Really?
But I’ll take this. It is a concession to the fact that most Pennsylvanians are tolerant, fair people who care about their neighbors. It is a concession to reality and as someone who has to live in reality, I’m okay with this. I’m not going to vote for Corbett and I wouldn’t say he deserves credit unless he goes another step, but I do acknowledge that this is an important step.
However, I do think we need to take a few steps backwards. According to Equality PA, there are 33 municipalities in the Commonwealth which have “inclusive ordinances.” This number is disputed with regard to how inclusive the ordinances are. Even the Human Relations Campaign claims that Pittsburgh does not have a sufficiently inclusive ordinance.
The patchwork approach is not sufficient – we need statewide protections. Let’s call on Governor Corbett to be a leader in his party to move this legislation *at least* to a committee hearing. Let’s demand a concrete plan of action, not call for further public statements. What good will it do if he supports marriage equality in speech if he doesn’t do anything to lay the ground work to make it happen?