A record number of state legislators announced at a news conference Tuesday their sponsorship of two bills protecting people from gender identity, sexual expression and sexual orientation-based discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations across the state of Pennsylvania.
The bipartisan companion bills – House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300 – have a combined 102 sponsors, 77 in the state House of Representatives and 25 in the state Senate.
"Today was nothing short of historic and it is no surprise to me that the charge for equality across the Commonwealth finds some of its strongest voices in Philadelphia," state Rep. Brian Sims (D-Phila.) said in a statement.
Sims isthe first member of the Pennsylvania legislature elected as an openly gay candidate.
"This is more than just an exciting day for me personally, and as a legislator who represents the city in Pennsylvania that has its LGBT protections the longest, I can say comfortably that this is one of the most historic days for Pennsylvania LGBT civil rights," Sims said.
"Today, we stand united with more legislators, and with more bipartisan support within the House and Senate, than at any time in Pennsylvania history."
Executive director of Equality Pennsylvania Ted Martin announced at the press conference that a recent Susquehanna Polling and Research survey of 700 registered voters showed 72 percent support the proposed laws.
"Our laws today fall short of protecting all our citizens, and the stories I hear nearly every day from our members affirm the need for House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300," Martin said in a statement.
"These bills provide critical protections for gay and transgender Pennsylvanians. Currently, our state is the only one in the Northeast where gay and transgender citizens can be fired, denied a mortgage, or refused a hotel room simply because of who they are or who they love."
A new major private sector supporter, the Pittsburgh-based UPMC health system, also announced on Tuesday their backing of the legislation, joining supporters Service Employees International Union and the AARP of Pennsylvania.
"It’s time the Commonwealth joined at least 20 other states and many major employers and municipalities in Pennsylvania and make it illegal to discriminate solely based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression," lead Republican sponsor of S.B. 300 and Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne said in a statement.
State Rep. Larry Farnese (D–Phila.) is the lead Democrat sponsor of S.B. 300 and state Reps. Dan Frankel (D–Allegheny) and Chris Ross (R–Chester) are the lead sponsors of H.B. 300.
"It’s sickening to think that in Pennsylvania someone can be denied a place to live and a career because of who they love," Farnese said in a statement.
"I’m proud to stand with this bipartisan coalition and work to pass Senate and House Bills 300, because they are not just long overdue for the good of the Commonwealth and our citizens, but they are the right things to pass because they will end housing and employment discrimination in our great state."