BLOG: Non-discrimination executive orders are a first step in protecting Pennsylvanians

By: Sophie Stone, Deputy Press Secretary

April 07, 2016

Last week, North Carolina passed a law banning anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and requiring transgender people in public buildings to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.

This week, Mississippi’s governor signed into law a bill allowing individuals, religious institutions, and private businesses to decline services to people if serving those customers would violate their religious beliefs.

Governor Wolf has made clear that this startling trend in other states will not find success in Pennsylvania. That’s why today Governor Wolf will sign two executive orders – one pertaining to commonwealth employees and the other to the commonwealth grants and procurement process – that each say no agency under the governor’s jurisdiction shall discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and identity, among other areas.

This is an important step in ensuring equality, but it is not the last step: Pennsylvania must do more to protect its citizens. What happened in North Carolina, and what is going on in other states, should be a call to pass non-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania now. The governor wants to make clear that Pennsylvania is inclusive, welcoming, and open for business for everyone.

What North Carolina and Mississippi did is wrong, and equally as troubling is the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s inaction on passing non-discrimination legislation in the commonwealth to ensure that all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, and identity – are treated equally under Pennsylvania law. This fundamental right is essential, and enjoys broad, bipartisan support.

In an article titled, “Protect transgender people, stand apart from North Carolina: Gov. Wolf,” the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported on how this issue has made its way into public debate in Pennsylvania:

“…a social conservative group [took] steps including posting billboard messages and otherwise publicizing its view [that] the anti-discrimination law would lead to the end of gender-specific restrooms, and to more sexual assaults in public restrooms…

“However, Pennsylvania Competes, a business advocacy group supported by companies including The Hershey Co. on Tuesday said the group should take down the ‘inaccurate, fear-based misinformation’…

“Wolf said, ‘What happened in North Carolina, and what is going on in other states, should be a call to pass non-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania now. The time is now, and I urge the legislature to send a bill to my desk. We need to send a signal that Pennsylvania is inclusive, welcoming, and open for business for everyone. We must show that Pennsylvania is the place that William Penn envisioned when he founded our commonwealth on the principle that it is open, diverse, and inclusive for all people.’

“Versions of the bill have sat in committees in the state House and Senate, which are each controlled by Republicans.”

Governor Wolf knows that it is time for real progress in Pennsylvania. He will continue to fight for non-discrimination legislation in our state.

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