Last week, the Fairness Act was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I’ve seen this scenario many times before, but this time, there’s hope. Pennsylvania’s Fairness Act is similar to the Equality Act in Congress. Both legislations have one thing in common: they have both been introduced and re-introduced numerous times over the years to no avail. Year after year it seems almost like whiplash. The legislation is introduced but never goes anywhere. When one hurdle is passed, another one stands in the way. But there are now some promising signs in Pennsylvania.
Many of the roadblocks to passing the Fairness Act have been removed. We have a Governor in Josh Shapiro who has it as a high priority, a Democratic controlled House of Representative with Speaker Joanna McClinton who supports the legislation, and LGBT legislators and allies who can not only speak for our community on the floor and in committee, but who also understand the need to build coalitions to get things done.
The Fairness Act was introduced by State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, along with representatives Jessica Benham, Dan Frankel, Latasha D. Mayes, Ismail Smith-Wade-El, and Greg Scott. All are outstanding advocates for our community.
Simply introducing a piece of legislation is hard work to get it to that point. When the legislation is written, stakeholders, interested parties and the elected officials all have a voice. Getting each of them on the same page is a task in itself. Then there is setting the agenda of getting the legislation passed, which includes a strategy to have it voted out of committee and onto the floor for a final vote. If the Fairness Act passes the Pa. House, that itself will mark a success, The Fairness Act has never in over 40 years passed in the House. When that happens, we are one step closer than we have ever been.
The Pa. Senate is a completely different strategy since it is controlled by Republicans. Will they treat the Fairness Act with respect? If they do, it has a good chance of passing since there are enough Republican Senators at this point who are willing to join Democrats in passing it. If the Fairness Act passes the House and the Senate, then it would head to Governor Shapiro to sign it into law. But we’ve been scorned too many times before to take any of this for granted. Luckily we have passionate advocates in both the House and Senate who will work across the aisle and have a dignified debate on the issues.
You might ask why I feel so passionate about this legislation. The answer is that my phone still rings to this day with those who have lost their jobs and housing because they are LGBT. We still publish those articles in PGN. For me, it feels like all these years of fighting for equality still have left a benchmark unmet. I look forward to the day this point of equality finally gets done. That will be a truly joyous occasion.