Friday, February 22, 2013

It's an issue because I'm making it one...

I was told this week that "the gay thing" wasn't an issue in Blair County because no one is talking about it right now.  Guess what?  I'm talking about it.  Why is it an issue?  Let's pop over to Equality PA's website and find out...

Did you know...

  • "in most parts of the Commonwealth it is perfectly legal to be fired on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression?"
  • "in only 17 of the state's nearly 2,500 municipalities are there anti-discrimination laws in effect to protect LGBT Pennsylvanians"
  • "there is no legal recourse for LGBT Pennsylvanians who have been sexually harassed at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in most of the state"
  • "and of course, it is still illegal for same-sex couples to get married"
In 2009 House Bill 300 was introduce to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in public housing, employment, and public accommodation.  Shall we take a look at Pennsylvania's General Assembly website to see how the vote went on that?

The legislators that represent people in this area are overwhelming very conservative Republicans who are perfectly content to allow the civil liberties of LGBT Pennsylvanians to be violated because they don't hear the voices of people who say otherwise.  The very nature of the legalized discrimination against LGBT Pennsylvanians makes it unbelievably difficult to fight against this injustice.  If you don't live in one of the 17 municipalities or work for one of the handful of companies that include LGBT-specific non-discrimination policies then LGBT people are forced to fear for their livelihood if they speak up and that's why I refuse to shut up about it.

Just this past August, in the Altoona Mirror, State Sen. John Eichelberger had this to say about LGBT anti-discrimination laws:
"Adding sexual preference to this law would help to establish a special class for LGBT people. Advocates for same-sex marriage push for this change in the hate crimes law to strengthen their argument for same-sex marriage," he said. "Sexual preference does not meet the legal standard set forth in the state's hate crimes law." 
Eichelberger must keep his fingers firmly plugged into his ears all day because he apparently also believes that the majority of Americans believe in a "traditional" definition of family.  I believe that my family are the people I love, and who love me.  I believe that if two adults are in love and want to make a legal bond of that commitment, then we should honor that love just as we honor the bond between a man and a woman.  Just recently, a Franklin and Marshall poll showed that 52% of Pennsylvanians support marriage equality.  Do you think they probably also support adding sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to standing anti-discrimination laws?  I bet they do.

Enough people simply don't know that an LGBT person can be fired just for being gay in PA.  Every person that I have told about this legalized discrimination has been both shocked and appalled.  Many people simply assume that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Pennsylvanians are protected by standing laws.  The protection simply isn't there, except in very specific places.  Even if, as an LGBT Pennsylvanian, you're lucky enough to work at a company with an LGBT anti-discrimination policy, if you don't live in an area that has LGBT anti-discrimination laws in place you can still be discriminated against in public housing and accommodation, as well as sexually harassed without legal recourse.

A religious belief that homosexuality is a sin is not an excuse for discriminating against people's rights to lead a different life than you.  Many of my Jewish brothers and sisters don't eat pork, but they don't demand that I abstain from eating it as well.  If I'm on a diet, I don't make everyone else stop eating cookies.  No one is asking you to stop believing what you believe.  If, however, one of the things you believe is that people shouldn't be discriminated against because of who they are, then I urge you, I beg you to write a letter to your local legislators.  Call them.  Email them.  Tell them that this injustice has gone on long enough.  Let them know that this is an issue, not just for LGBT Pennsylvanians, but for all Pennsylvanians.

Edited to add:
If you're interested in writing some letters and need a little inspiration, please feel free to check out my letters to State Sen. John Eichelberger and PA General Assembly Representative John McGinnis.