Harrisburg – April 27, 2011 –At a news conference today, State Sen. Larry Farnese joined with state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) and a host of state House members, advocates and supporters to announce legislative initiatives that would protect people who live or work in Pennsylvania from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

“I am proud that we are all partners in making sure that all Pennsylvanians are protected equally under the law,” said Senator Farnese.  “My colleagues and I have long been advocates of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) rights and equal protection under the law for every citizen regardless of race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability.”

Senator Farnese is primary sponsor of Senate Bill 910, which has been referred to the State Government Committee, and Representative Frankel is primary sponsor of House Bill 300.  Both bills seek to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited factors.

“Let’s be clear about what these bills will do; not only will they finally bring equality in the fight against discrimination and remedy a failure of our civil rights protection in PA, but just as importantly, they will make PA more economically viable,” Farnese said.  “These bills will create jobs and business opportunities in PA because people will want to live and work here – in a state that values equal protection for all people.”

Senator Farnese said that both his and Rep. Frankel’s bills prevent “unlawful discriminatory practices” against individuals or groups for those reasons as they relate to employment, housing and public accommodations.

Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Twelve of those states and the District of Columbia also ban discrimination based on gender identity.  Four of those states border Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania , 19 municipalities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or both, including Allentown, Allegheny County, Doylestown, Easton, Erie County, Harrisburg, Haverford Township, Lancaster, Lansdowne, Lower Marion Township, New Hope, Reading, Philadelphia, City of Pittsburgh, Scranton, State College, Swarthmore, West Chester and York.

“In this day and age, it is truly unthinkable that anyone would suffer discrimination in employment, housing or in public accommodations because of gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Senator Farnese. “It is time to ensure equal rights under the law for all Pennsylvanians.”

A poll conducted in February for Equality Pennsylvania by Susquehanna Polling and Research showed strong statewide support for this legislation.  According to Ted Martin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania, 69 percent of Pennsylvanians support passage of LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination legislation.

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