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PA Group Wants to Take Sexual Identity Out of the Workplace

June 3, 2009

Harrisburg, PA - Times are tough in Pennsylvania. The American Civil Liberties Union wants to make sure people don't lose their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. June is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, and a bill working its way through the Pennsylvania legislature would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Pennsylvania ACLU legislative director Andy Hoover says House Bill 300 comes at a time when, like everyone else, members of the GLBT community are trying to stay afloat during the recession.

"People are looking for work, people are worried about their own jobs disappearing, and we do not need to be in a situation where workers are fired simply because they're gay or because of their gender identity."

The measure has its opponents. The Pennsylvania Family Institute calls it a "radical gay rights" bill. However, 20 states in the nation have similar laws in place, including New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

Hoover points out that some municipalities in the state have taken similar steps on their own.

"There are 14 municipalities that have some form of this protection in Pennsylvania. However, that covers less than 20 percent of Pennsylvania's population, so a lot of Pennsylvanians are still vulnerable to discrimination."

Hoover says it's not a case of giving the GLBT community special treatment. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act already extends the same kinds of protection and he says this legislation would finish leveling off the playing field.

"If a white person is discriminated against, they could file under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. If HB 300 becomes law and a straight person feels they've been discriminated against because they're straight, they could bring an action."

More information is available from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, 1-717-236-6827.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA