Two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania continue to face an uphill battle despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) has refused to allow debate on House Bill 300 in the House State Government Committee that he chairs since state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) introduced it last August. The measure — and an identical bill that state Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh County) introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate have more than 100 co-sponsors.
Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday he feels Gov. Tom Corbett’s announcement late last year that he supports the measure is “definitely a good thing.” Martin further stressed same-sex marriage in the commonwealth will have little impact on Metcalfe’s opposition to HB 300.
“He was always very adamant that the bill would never come out of his committee,” said Martin. “The marriage issue is not going to change that.”
Martin told the Blade he is “thrilled” the state now recognizes his California marriage. He stressed his organization’s response to the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians in the commonwealth has been “kind of tempered” because of the lack of statewide discrimination protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians.
“I have to remind people that you can still get fired,” said Martin. “You can face termination or eviction in most parts of the state.”
Sue Kerr, editor of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, made a similar point.
She told the Blade on Tuesday that a woman who lives in Metcalfe’s district north of Pittsburgh sent her a picture of an anti-gay marriage sign hanging outside a local church that read “just because sin is legal doesn’t mean its okay.” Kerr said she has also spoken with dozens of people since U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III, on May 20 struck down Pennsylvania’s statutory same-sex marriage ban who don’t understand “how it all works.”
“There’s a sense of urgency to get married, even though they are risking their jobs or their housing,” she said. “I’m afraid people are going to make uninformed decisions.”
Pennsylvania is among the 19 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can now legally marry after Corbett announced last week he will not appeal Jones’ ruling.
Neighboring Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York are among the 21 states, the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico that have banned anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation. Delaware and New Jersey also ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this month signed a transgender rights bill into law that could face a referendum in November.
Philadelphia and 32 other Pennsylvania municipalities have enacted anti-discrimination laws that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. A poll that Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted last May found 72 percent of Pennsylvanians back the two anti-LGBT discrimination bills.
Martin told the Blade he feels the attention surrounding same-sex marriage will help Pennsylvanians “understand how we treat LGBT people” in the state “in general, which is not good.”
“Equality Pennsylvania has been fighting for non-discrimination for a long time, along with marriage equality,” he said. “We never expected to get it in this way.”
Kerr added she feels marriage rights for same-sex couples will also have a positive impact on lawmakers who would consider HB 300.
“Putting more public pressure out there is good,” she said. “Marriage equality can be helpful seeing all these nice stories out there. That’s all positive.”
Metcalfe did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.