by Sue Ann Rybak
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that all Americans have the right to marry the person they love – regardless of their sexual-orientation. Unfortunately, many Pennsylvanians do not know that members of the LGBT community can still be legally fired, denied housing or refused service at a hotel, restaurant or even a hospital based on their sexual orientation.
Many conservatives claim that being forced to serve gays or transgender people violates their religious rights.
Currently, an updated version of the Pennsylvania Non-discrimination Act (HB300/SB300) has stalled in the state legislature. The bill would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability, to include discrimination against someone based on their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression.”
Several ultraconservative organizations and religious groups are urging members to oppose the act because they claim it infringes on their religious liberty.
A press release by the American Families Association, which urges members to oppose Pennsylvania Non-discrimination Act, states:
“The intention of HB and SB 300 is to force all Pennsylvanians, under force of law, to accept homosexuality as normal. Churches and private schools which receive any government money and employ more than four people will be forced to hire homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders. As evidenced across the country, Christian business owners will be forced to participate in same-sex commitment ceremonies/weddings by being required to bake wedding cakes, provide wedding flowers, etc., or face fines.”
Fortunately, almost all lawsuits brought against businesses and employers for discrimination based on “sexual orientation” have succeeded.
For example, a Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled on April 11 that the owner of Aloha Bed & Breakfast violated the state law when she refused to rent a room to a same-sex couple because it violated her religious beliefs.
Instances of discrimination continue, however. In July, a teacher was fired by Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion because of her same-sex marriage. The school stated that her marriage was in conflict with the philosophy of the Catholic Church, even though she told the school about the relationship when she was hired eight years earlier.
Although Lower Merion Township has an anti-discrimination ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on his or her sexual orientation, religious institutions are exempt unless they receive government funds. The situation is still not resolved.
Unfortunately, several conservative politicians have drafted bills that would block local discrimination laws.
Congress needs to pass a law to protect gays and transgender people against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.
Last year, President Barak Obama signed Executive Order 11478 (Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government) and Executive Order 11246 (Equal Employment Opportunity) to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.
Now, Americans need to demand that Congress pass federal legislation against discriminating against someone based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression.”
Maybe it’s time we remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”