York County State Senator Scott Wagner released a statement today saying that he would not remove his name from co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 974, known as the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. The bill adds language, which includes sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, that aligns with current Pennsylvania Human Relations Act text. The intent of the bill is to end discrimination against LGBT individuals as it relates to employment, housing and public accommodations.
According to the legislation’s memo, “…the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability. This legislation will provide a basic level of protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.” Surveys cited in the legislation claim that “over 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support amending state law to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination.”
The legislation continues, “Our legislation is not simply the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense. More than 400 companies in Pennsylvania, including some of the largest employers, have non-discrimination policies in place that include sexual orientation and, or gender identity. Additionally, all Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Commonwealth have non-discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and most have a gender identity or expression policy as well. These employers recognize that by respecting diversity, they can attract and retain the best workers and maintain a competitive advantage – a key factor in stimulating economic growth.”
As an employer, Wager wrote, he thinks “Pennsylvania should be seen as a place that welcomes any individual who wants to work hard, succeed, and contribute to our economy without the fear of being fired or refused services simply because of who they are. Although there has been an increase in the number of Pennsylvania municipalities that have passed non-discrimination ordinances, without a statewide law, thousands of individuals not residing in one of these thirty-four (34) municipalities are not covered. Moreover, Pennsylvania has the distinction of being the only state in the Northeast without a law protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and, or gender identity.”
Hundreds of emails sent and phone calls made to Wagner have asked him to remove his name from co-sponsorship. In response to them, he wrote, “The fact that attempts have been made to intimidate me and other supporters of SB 974 to try to get us to remove our co-sponsorships of this legislation and are trying to change the conversation to make it about men in women’s bathrooms should not deter us from our goal.”