Pennsylvania passes Fairness Act to ensure queer people are treated ‘with dignity and respect’

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed a bill that aims to protect LGBTQ+ people in the state from discrimination in the workplace, education and housing.

On Tuesday (4 May), 102 state representatives, including two Republicans, voted in favour of the proposed legislation, known as The Fairness Act, which seeks to amend the 1955 Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to its list of protected classes.

Ninety-eight representatives voted against it.

In a joint statement, the six Democrats who co-sponsored the bill, Malcolm Kenyatta, Jessica Benham, Dan Frankel, La’Tasha D. Mayes, Ismail Smith-Wade-El, and Greg Scott said: “Today is a historic day, as we take a critical step to make Pennsylvania fairer. The Fairness Act is as simple as it is substantive. HB 300 would protect LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians from facing discrimination.”

The bill now has to be approved by the state senate before moving on to the desk of Democratic governor Josh Shapiro to be signed into law.

Benham told the Pennsylvania Capital Star: “The passage of this act is yet another step to ensuring that every Pennsylvanian is treated with dignity and respect.”

You may like to watch

Pennsylvania Democratic representative Paul Takac wrote a heartfelt post on Twitter, saying: “This has been a long time coming. As a parent of a transgender child, I couldn’t be happier about the passage of the Fairness Act and I urge my senate colleagues to act. No one should face discrimination for who they love or how they identify. We should all be equal under the law.”

House minority leader, Republican Bryan Cutler, opposed extending law, fearing it would come into direct “conflict” with other rights.

“It’s important to know that anytime you’re dealing with rights, you should never set up a situation, especially in a law, where one right is in direct conflict with another,” he said.

He claimed doctors may have to sacrifice their religious beliefs and be forced to provide gender-affirming care to young people.

Pennsylvania Republicans also opposed the use of the word “discrimination” in the bill.

“Discrimination is wrong… but changing the definition of the word discrimination and using it as a tool to silence those who disagree with you on these very sensitive issues, that’s a bridge too far and that’s what this bill did,” said Jesse Topper.

Fellow Republican Stephanie Borowicz went much further, seemingly suggesting trans people do not exist and, according to the Philadelphia Gay News, saying: “It is sick and evil. You can’t change words to hide from what you are doing. You don’t get to do evil and call it good.”