Making PA live up to expectations of fairness for LGBT community
By Stephen Boyhont
“Nearly 75% of Pennsylvanians believe that it is already illegal for someone to be fired for being gay or transgender. For nearly three-fourths of our state, the passage of this bill would solidify a value we already hold dear.” This idea was presented in the recent Senate testimony of Shawn Warner, a national political director for Gill Action, an organization focusing on equality for LGBT people.
The Senate Labor & Industry Committee held an informational public hearing about Senate Bill 1306 on Tuesday, August 30th. This bill amends an anti-discrimination act to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected classes in Pennsylvania’s employment and housing policies. Although same-sex marriage has been legal since the Supreme Court case last year, employment and housing policies have not caught up yet. In Pennsylvania, 36 municipalities have already adopted similar ordinances, but this provides a patch-work approach. A gay man might be protected in one area of the state and have no protection in another.
There is a phrase many LGBT people and their allies use to describe these employment uncertainties; “Married on Sunday, fired on Monday.” You can get married on Sunday, but putting up any wedding photos at your cubicle is a risk for unemployment. This is just one of the many fears LGBT people live with on a day to day basis.
The majority of testimony was in favor for SB 1306 which was well received by the Committee. Rev. Dr. David Krueger, Lead Organizer for Reconciling Methodists of Eastern Pennsylvania said, “I encounter Jesus who stood with those at the margins society: the woman who was about to be stoned for adultery, the Samaritans who were labeled impure and immoral…we read that Jesus preached good news to the poor and called for the oppressed to be set free. In short, Christian faith, as embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, is a faith that demands justice.”
ELCA Bishops from Pennsylvania penned an open letter last year that showed their support for the amendment and stated: “Our church’s boldness in speaking in support of this legislation does not come from our own achievements, but from our yearning. We reach together for the anticipated “peaceable kingdom,” the day when the identity of each person is valued and all are protected from harm.”
Stephen Boyhont has worked in a variety of advocacy roles, including serving as coordinating committee member of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. He most recently served as assistant director of Camp Nawakwa, part of the Lutheran Camping Corporation.