The Pennsylvania General Assembly has seen 69 pieces of legislation which promote the welfare of Pennsylvanians regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We know that unless our laws specifically state “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes from discrimination – the lives of LGBT Pennsylvanians will continue to reflect major challenges and concerns.
The first piece of equality legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly was in 1976 by Rep. Norman Berson (D-187, Philadelphia) regarding non-discrimination – with only two co-sponsors. It would be over a decade before the next piece of equality legislation was introduced. Introductions and legislative reviews by House and Senate committees increased over the 1990s-2000s. In the past two sessions, LGBT equality legislation has been visible and at an all time number of bills.
The only piece of LGBT equality legislation to become law in Pennsylvania was the hate crimes law of 2002. It was ultimately struck down by the Commonwealth Court in 2008 due to a technicality.
In 1975, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp signed Executive Order 1975-5 to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the state government’s jurisdiction. This includes all state employees and has been renewed by every Governor since [1975-5 (and revised in 1976, 1978), 1984-1, 1988-1, 1996-9, 2002-3, 2003-10]. Governor Edward Rendell extended the protections to include gender identity in 2003.
For a full list of all 69 pieces of legislation please click here
Republican LGBT Equality Legislation in Pennsylvania
The Republican caucus has had 10 legislators over the past few decades who have introduced 28 pieces of meaningful legislation.
From 2001-2008, Republicans introduced 10 pieces of LGBT equality legislation, compared to six pieces of LGBT equality legislation by Democrats during the same time period.
Republican legislators have had at most 6 pieces of LGBT equality legislation in the General Assembly during one session – from 2003-2004. They were all focused on prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The successful passage of the Pennsylvania hate crimes law of 2002 can owe a much of its success to committed Republican leadership. It is the only piece of LGBT equality legislation ever adopted by the General Assembly.
Democratic LGBT Equality Legislation in Pennsylvania
The Democratic caucus has had 22 legislators over the past few decades who have introduced 41 pieces of meaningful legislation.
They are, in order of their first LGBT equality legislation introduced: Berson (1), Josephs (4), Dawida (1), Preston (1), Thomas (1), Wagner (3), Ramos (1), O’Brien (2), Frankel (5), Kukovich (1), Hughes (2), Schwartz (1), Mundy (1), Kasunic (1), Ferlo (3), Kitchen (2), Shapiro (2), Taylor (1), Leach (3), M.Cohen (2), Farnese (1), Briggs (1).
Approximately two-thirds of all LGBT inclusive equality legislation in the state has been introduced by Democratic legislators.
In the current session, Democrats have introduced 10 pieces of LGBT equality legislation.
Democrats legislators have the most pieces of LGBT equality legislation introduced in the General Assembly than any other session before at 10 bills. They cover the major areas of discrimination, hate crimes, and relationship recognition.
Equality Advocates Pioneers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly
Top 5 Introducers of Equality Legislation
- Rep. Lita Indzel Cohen (R-148, Montgomery) | Introduced: 8 bills
- Sen. Joe Conti (R-10, Bucks and Montgomery) |Introduced: 6 bills
- Sen. David Heckler (R-10, Bucks and Montgomery) | Introduced: 5 bills
- Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23, Allegheny) | Introduced: 5 bills
- Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182, Philadelphia) | Introduced: 4 bills
Most Committed State Legislator: Rep. Lita Indzel Cohen (R-148, Montgomery) and Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23, Allegheny)
Rep. L. I. Cohen introduced a hate crimes bill four times before passage. The most times a LGBT equality bill has been introduced and re-introduced in the General Assembly.
Also, Rep. Frankel has introduced a nondiscrimination bill a total of four times. An inclusive bill in the last three consecutive sessions, with a fourth non-discrimination bill only for sexual orientation in 2003.
These legislators have been consistent, committed, and patient. Their continued leadership ensured that their issues are prominently discussed in Harrisburg.
Republicans dominated the introduction of LGBT equality legislation in the 1990s, while the Democrats have been increasing their bill introductions on this issue greatly in the past two sessions.
Republicans have focused on hate crimes and general discrimination while Democrats have focused on a variety of issues, but increasingly on relationship recognition.
A bill for sexual orientation only (when gender identity could have been applicable to add to the legislation’s issue) was last introduced by a Democrat in the 2009-2010 session. Approximately 61% of Republican introduced equality legislation has been for sexual orientation only (17 bills), while the percentage of Democratic introduced equality legislation that focus only on sexual orientation is 39% (16 bills). This can be explained by the number of Republican bills introduced in the 1990s when it was a time in the nation where very little legislation were mentioning gender identity, while recently Democrats have introduced more inclusive bills as education, awareness, and visibility have showed the importance of sexual orientation and gender identity in legislation together.
Each caucus has each had their own session where they were the only one to introduce LGBT equality legislation: Republicans from 1995-1996 and Democrats from 2009-2010.
Source: The Pennsylvania General Assembly Online Portal