Gov. Wolf vows to veto proposed anti-LGBT legislation

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 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto a Republican-sponsored bill pending in the state legislature that could nullify numerous LGBT-inclusive ordinances.

“Gov. Wolf would veto this bill because it would roll back years of progress in protecting LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, women and workers,” said Wolf spokesperson J.J. Abbott in a June 15 email about H.B. 861. “Pennsylvania should be expanding nondiscrimination protections to every citizen, not destroying the hard work to make our commonwealth more fair and equitable.”

H.B. 861, which is pending in the state House of Representatives Labor & Industry Committee, seeks to prevent local municipalities from enacting ordinances that regulate terms and conditions of employment within businesses located in their respective areas.
The bill addresses only those ordinances enacted by municipalities after Jan. 1, 2015. The Labor & Industry Committee held an informational hearing on the bill June 13.

State Rep. Maria P. Donatucci (D-Philadelphia), a member of the committee, said in a statement that in Philadelphia, the nondiscrimination ordinance is grandfathered and would remain in effect, even if the state bill passes. But, she noted, “any nondiscrimination ordinance across the state enacted after January 2015 would be null and void. It would eliminate Philadelphia’s sick-leave law, as well as prevent any local labor laws and the banning of questions on employment applications regarding job [and salary] history for women.  This is a very slippery slope.”

A spokesperson for state Rep. Seth M. Grove, a Republican representing parts of Erie County who introduced the legislation, declined to comment for this story.

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, blasted H.B. 861.

“We should allow municipalities to pass the laws that are needed to protect LGBT people from discrimination,” Shanker told PGN.

Marianne Bellesorte, vice president for advocacy at Pathways PA, which fights for lower-income people, said local control belongs in the hands of local government. “H.B. 861 would overturn more than 40 local laws across the state, including nondiscrimination ordinances, pay equity and paid sick- and safe-days laws that have been in effect for up to three years,” Bellesorte said in a June 14 email. “Additionally, this law would stop more municipalities from passing their own nondiscrimination laws in the future.”

The current legislative session ends June 30 and sources said H.B. 861 is not expected to be released from committee before then. 

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the Keystone Press.