EDITORIAL: LGBTQ rights in Pa. are now up to Seth Grove
It's up to you, Seth Grove.
During each legislative session for two decades, Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, has pushed bills similar to the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would add sex, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the provisions of state law that prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, education and public accommodations.
Last week, Frankel again introduced this legislation, this time surrounded by advocates for the bill including Gov. Tom Wolf and Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, one of three openly LGBTQ people serving in the Legislature.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that lacks codified anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, though LGBTQ Pennsylvanians can file a complaint with a state commission.
“I gotta say, as a native Pennsylvanian, it remains an embarrassment for Pennsylvania that we stand out among our neighboring states for failing to provide basic civil rights protections,” Wolf said.
The bill over the years has gained widespread support among both Democrats and Republicans, with both Wolf and opponent Scott Wagner speaking in favor of it during the last gubernatorial race. This year's bill already has 70 co-sponsors, including at least a couple of Republicans and Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City.
There is every reason to support this bill. While last year's Bostock v. Clayton County decision from the U.S. Supreme Court codified the right of members of the LGBTQ community to keep their jobs without discrimination from their employers, there are still a host of other areas where discrimination can occur, from housing to restaurants to stores.
Businesses have long supported this legislation, forms of which have become law in 22 other states.
So what's been the hold up? Republicans in charge of the House State Government Committee.
For session after session, raging homophobe Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, was chair of the committee. Metcalfe prided himself on never allowing legislation from Democrats to even come up for debate by the committee. He also on several occasions threw a fit when another man came too close to him or touched his arm.
In 2019, Metcalfe was moved off the State Government and Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, took over the chair. Everett said he would consider whether the Pennsylvania Fairness Act legislation was important enough to bring before the committee.
Apparently he never thought it was.
“The fact that we haven’t gotten this bill done is what so frustrates people about politics,” Kenyatta said when the bill was introduced again on June 15..
This time, Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, is in charge of the committee.
We know Grove has been busy with hearings and legislation to figure out what went wrong during the extremely fair, honest and well-run November election.
But we hope that he will set aside some time for his committee to look at the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.
The LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania deserves the right to know that, along with keeping their jobs, they can expect equal treatment from landlords and real estate agents, restaurant staff, retail clerks, health care workers and the multitude of other people who can make life difficult for people they want to discriminate against.
It should not have taken Pennsylvania this long to bring equal rights to its LGBTQ citizens Seth Grove, it's up to you to do the right thing.