HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) It’s a controversial issue — that was front and center today in Harrisburg. The state senate is considering strengthening its anti-discrimination laws to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Eyewitness News reporter Eric Deabill is at the state Capitol now — with more on a legislative hearing that took place today.
For four hours Tuesday, state senators heard arguments both “for” and “against” new statewide anti-discrimination laws.
In front of a packed meeting room there were many supporters of stronger laws to help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“Pennsylvania remains the only state in the northeast where you can still fire someone for being gay or evict them or deny them a public accommodation. It’s time to change that” Said Ted Martin, Equality PA Executive Director
Opponents say the legislation would fly in the face of religious liberty.
“In its present form, this bill threatens religious liberty” added Robert O’Hara Jr
Pennsylvania Catholic Conference
Some of the most personal testimony came from Wilkes-Barre city councilman Tony Brooks who told his coming out story.
“For me and a lot of LGBTQ people, the closet was a very terrible place to live”
Brooks is now pushing an anti-discrimination bill in his city as the state considers the same topic.
“If discrimination wasn’t real, there would be no sign thing as a closet would there? And that proves it”
Others in Tuesday’s hearing say after being talked about for more than a decade, it’s finally time for a vote.
“It has been 13 years so we’re certainly ready for it to be decided”
Without state laws in place, 36 cities and towns across PA have passed their own stronger laws — including Scranton, Pittston and Dickson City.
A similiar ordinance in Wilkes-Barre could get final approval next month