PA Commission on LGBTQ Affairs meets in Erie

from Michael Mahler

On Friday, August 9, the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs held their quarterly meeting at the Crime Victim Center, 125 W 18th St, Erie PA. Among the topics discussed were strategies to pass non-discrimination legislation at the state level. Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the North East part of the US that does not include sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression as protected classes for statewide non-discrimination laws. However, in August 2018, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission - the government agency that enforces the commonwealth's nondiscrimination law - announced that it will accept and hear complaints of discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public accommodations as a form of sex discrimination. Legislation is currently in committee in both the state house and senate that would make that explicit. Legislation covering sexual orientation and gender identity/expression has never made it to the floor of either chamber for a vote. Over 50 municipalities across the commonwealth have passed local non-discrimination ordinances. Erie County passed anti-discrimination that included sexual orientation in 2002, and added legislation making gender identity protection explicit in 2018.

Also discussed was calling on Governor Wolf to issue an Emergency Removal Order to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from placing immigrant families at the Berks County Detention Center.

The Commission reviewed their first year's actions and achievements, and began to plan for the second year. Issues regarding diversity and inclusion were discussed related to search for new candidates to replace outgoing commissioners.

The workgroups on aging, healthcare, jobs/housing. education, and legislation met, and reported back.

There were also presentations from the Erie City Mayor's Office, United Way of Pennsylvania and the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality (GEAE.) United Way of Pennsylvania presented on ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), financial hardship for those who are above the federal poverty level but still experience financial insecurity.

The next meeting will be November 15 in Allentown.

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