Corbett Backs Gay Rights Bill On Discrimination

Dec 18, 2013

Gov. Tom Corbett is supporting a measure to ban the discrimination of Pennsylvanians based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The proposal would update the commonwealth’s anti-discrimination law to include what supporters call basic protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The governor insists he’s not changing his stance on the issue, claiming it’s the first time he’s had any kind of position.

"In the last few months in discussions it was made clear to me that federal law did not cover what House Bill and Senate Bill 300s would cover," Corbett said. "I had a presumption that it did. I think it should."

Corbett says his backing does not change his position on same-sex marriage, which he opposes.

Democratic Representative Brian Sims of Philadelphia, the first openly gay lawmaker elected to the House, is praising the governor for the move and is calling for the proposal’s advancement in the House.

The bill has been referred to the committee chaired by Republican Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County, who said in August he won’t bring it up for a vote because it wouldn’t have majority support from the committee’s 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Corbett, a Republican who's seeking a second term in next year's election, says he's not sure what he'll do to try to persuade the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass the legislation.

Pennsylvania law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, education status, handicap or disability.

In November, U.S. senators including Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey and Bob Casey approved federal legislation on the topic, but it's expected to die in the more conservative U.S. House.

The Human Rights Campaign says 17 states and Washington, D.C., have anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation and gender identity.