Anti-rape advocates and businesses pressure Pennsylvania to pass LGBTQ protections

MARC LEVY, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) โ€” A fiery public debate is flaring in the state over long-stalled legislation designed to outlaw discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anti-sexual assault activists and the business community are lining up with gay rights activists against a social conservative organization over the legislation, which is bottled up in Pennsylvania‘s Republican-controlled Legislature.

The debate is happening just days after lawmakers in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi passed legislation that critics say would permit discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has tried to raise the profile of the issue in Pennsylvania, in light of a backlash against North Carolina, and has urged Republicans to allow a vote on it. He suggested that giving protection against discrimination for the gay and transgender community is the evolution of a civil rights movement that banned discrimination because of race.

“We shouldn’t be discriminating on this basis either,” Wolf told a KQV-AM radio interviewer last week. “I think that’s an appropriate thing for a government to say: ‘We have ground rules here.'”

Identical House and Senate bills long languishing in committee would add categories โ€” sexual orientation, gender identity or expression โ€” to a law that empowers the state Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of discrimination in employment, housing and public services because of someone’s race, sex, religion, age or disability. The commission can impose civil penalties, such as back pay or damages.

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