There are currently no state laws passed by the General Assembly in effect that explicitly provide for legal protections on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

The only state policy in place directly relating specifically to LGBTQ rights is marriage equality, which was granted through a decision in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in May 2014. Pennsylvania continues to have the weakest protections for LGBTQ individuals in the northeast United States.

Since 1982, at least 70 municipalities and four counties in Pennsylvania have adopted local non-discrimination ordinances inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. In 1975, Gov. Milton Shapp signed an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against those working for the Commonwealth government. This order has been renewed by every single Governor since, with Gov. Ed Rendell expanding it to include gender identity. Please visit our webpage on transgender student non-discrimination protections here.

Hate Crimes
In 2002, the state legislature passed an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes bill. However, that law was struck down by the Commonwealth Court on a technicality in 2008.

Marriage Equality
Pennsylvania has had marriage equality since May 2014 through the Whitewood v. Wolf decision was handed down by a federal court.  Judge John E. Jones ruled in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in favor of marriage equality, and struck down the ‘mini-DOMA’ that had been in place in 1996. Marriages were immediately conducted throughout the commonwealth. The General Assembly itself has not passed any laws extending relationship recognition to same-sex couples. Nearly a dozen civil union and marriage equality bills had been introduced between 2010-2013.

Two parents, regardless of their sex, can become the legal guardians of a child in Pennsylvania. This is ensured by the US District Court ruling in 2014 in favor of marriage equality. Additionally, in 2002, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that second-parent adoption is legal for same-sex couples. This was a two-step process, as there was no state policy between 2002-2014 that allowed same-sex parents to outright and jointly adopt a child. The legislature has not passed legislation granting or prohibiting two parents of the same sex to adopt.

Gender Recognition: Name and Gender Marker Changes
Pennsylvania does allow for its citizens to change their legal name and sex. The name change process is handled through county courts and can be completed in as little time as three – six months. Since 2010, Pennsylvanians have been able to change the gender marker on their driver’s license with a doctor’s note through PennDOT – without gender confirmation surgery as had been the case before. Changing the gender marker on a birth certificate does not require a note from a physician that any gender confirmation surgery has taken place. Please review the National Center for Transgender Equality’s ID Documents Center page for Pennsylvania here for more information and a step-by-step process on updating your identification.

Community Visibility
In August 2018, the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs was established, creating a platform for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians in state government. PYC first proposed the commission to Governor Wolf in 2015, which is now the only commission of its kind in the nation. The City of Pittsburgh had operated a Mayor’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council off and on since 2009, but then passed an ordinance establishing the City of Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA Commission in 2020. The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs was created in 2008, first led by Director Gloria Casarez. In 2015, Philadelphians voted by referendum to make the office permanent in the City Charter. In 2017, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs was formally created. In June 2018, Erie Mayor Joe Schember created an the city’s first LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee.

Additional Issues
Other major areas of policy which are of significant concern to LGBTQ people include in policing, healthcare, and educational institutions. Additionally, securing strong and inclusive services from the government that address homelessness, poverty, and HIV/AIDS are a high priority for Pennsylvanians in the movements for justice, equality, equity, and dignity for LGBTQ people.