York County Economic Alliance voices support for anti-discrimination act for LGBT community


As state law currently stands, it is still legal to fire someone from their job, to deny them housing and to refuse them services, simply because they are gay or transgender.

The Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which is quickly garnering support across York County and the state, seeks to correct that by updating Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act of 1955, which protects against discrimination in the workplace regardless of race, ancestry, age, sex, national origin and disability. Those protections, under the fairness act, would be expanded to fight discrimination against sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression.

"I think at its core, what this is doing is extending antidiscrimination to the LGBT community; it's ensuring that these individuals have that protection," said Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, who is also a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus. "This is to make sure that no one is discriminated against, courtesy of the law."

Economy: The York County Economic Alliance recently voiced its support for the fairness act.

"I think it's just the flat-out, right thing to do," said YCEA President and CEO Darrell Auterson. "Here in the Northeast, we're one of the only places that hasn't really passed nondiscrimination laws, and it certainly seems to be the right thing to do."

A key mission of the York County Economic Alliance is to grow the county's economy, which ultimately would be supported by the passage of the act, Auterson said.

"I think without a doubt, this does send a message that we are an open, inclusive business-oriented economy, and it will definitely make us more attractive," he said. "One of the big parts of what we try to do here is to attract and retain talent, and in order for us to do this, we have to show that we're an open society; we have to level the playing fields and stabilize our standards."

Supporting the act was an obvious choice for the economic alliance, Auterson said.

"This is a reflection of the times, and we have to continue to change and evolve," he said. "There are other organizations stepping up, and we think that it's our turn. Most folks recognize this as a no-brainer, and we hope that these trends are enough to start getting these laws passed."

Support: The growing support across the county is a big step for the fairness act, Schreiber said.

"It makes me proud to be a York countian," he said. "It's exciting, it's affirming, and I think it's a great step. I'm grateful that the York County Economic Alliance has chosen to is be a leader here."

Schreiber also agreed that in addition to being an issue of morality, the passage of the act would strengthen York's economy.

"This is an issue of fairness and equality but also one of workforce retention," he said. "If Pennsylvania wants to attract the best and the brightest, they also have to protect the best and the brightest. Social justice and morality is key, but this is also beyond that. If you want to look for talented people and to keep them here, you have to make sure they're not discriminated against because of who they love."

Schreiber said the Pennsylvania Fairness Act will be introduced "in the very near future."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.