Pa. Moves to Include LGBTQ Protections in Anti-Discrimination Laws

The state's Human Relations Commission has proposed a new set of guidelines concerning sexuality orientation and gender identity.

hate crime laws

As it stands right now, Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t address LGBTQ people in its hate crime laws – meaning crimes committed in the state based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity cannot be charged as hate crimes.

But the state’s Human Relations Commission – which enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination – wants to change that. The HRC has proposed a set of guidelines that would extend existing statewide education, employment and housing anti-discrimination protections to include LGBTQ individuals. 

The HRC’s new guidelines would extend the state’s Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prohibit sex-based discrimination. The act currently does not permit discrimination based of race, color, familial status, religion, disability, age or national origin.

In the past, state legislators have largely stalled bills that would amend the PHRA to include LGBTQ protections. Currently, police can investigate incidents targeting victims because of orientation and/or gender identity as “bias incidents” (largely to help the state keep track of their frequency), but there are no state statues that legally consider such incidents hate crimes.

The PHRC is seeking public comment on the guidelines by May 26th. Those interested should email Christina Reese at [email protected]

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