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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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PA Lacks Law to Prevent Discrimination Against Gays

PHOTO: Pennsylvania has no law in place to prevent discrimination against gays, although there are proposals in the Legislature to change that. Photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net.
PHOTO: Pennsylvania has no law in place to prevent discrimination against gays, although there are proposals in the Legislature to change that. Photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net.
February 28, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The decision by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays based on the owners' religious beliefs has made headlines from coast to coast. It also exposes that Pennsylvania has no law to protect gays from similar treatment.

Andy Hoover, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the law here, as it stands, allows for someone to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"A landlord or an employer, or a restaurant or a hotel, can turn someone away because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," he said.

The only exceptions are the 33 municipalities that have local ordinances prohibiting this type of discrimination, Hoover said, noting that only about 30 percent of the state's population lives in those areas.

The Arizona bill was supported by Republicans in the Legislature as a way to protect those who refused to serve gays based on religious beliefs from lawsuits.

Hoover said there is a move in Harrisburg to modernize Pennsylvania's laws.

"There are 21 states that have statewide laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," he said. "There is legislation in both the state House and state Senate that would make Pennsylvania one of those states."

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, already in effect, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on characteristics that include race, gender and disability, Hoover said. Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 300 would add sexual orientation and gender identity to that law.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA