The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which handles all discriminatory complaints in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations, has added sexual orientation and gender identity to its definition of protected groups.
From now on, you can complain if you have been discriminated against because of your LGBT identity.
The commission will investigate and if there is enough evidence that you have been discriminated against, there may be consequences. The commission can advise the company or the person who discriminated against you to stop this discriminatory practice; or implement training, or you will perceive economic damages.
“We cannot continue to tell people to wait: ‘Wait for us to get to a point where we can make sure that you’re not discriminated against,’ ” Chad Dion Lassiter, the commission’s executive director, said. “Being a human being in a democracy, people need to be protected.”
I was delighted to hear this news because, until now, we couldn't even file a complaint in case of discrimination.
But the problem is that it only concerns non-violent discrimination cases.
If you get mugged or someone in the community gets killed, you have no rights. Under Pennsylvania law, an assault, or even a murder, of an LGBT person is not considered as a hate crime. This absurd law prevents the police from acting.
Fortunately, sometimes, as in Philadelphia, there are municipal protections that include the LGBT community, but there are still many Pennsylvania cities that don't have this kind of protection.
There have been attempts to change that. In 2002, the state legislature passed an amendment to the hate crime law to protect LGBT people.
In 2004, the amendment was criticized and in 2007, the Commonwealth Court removed it, a decision that was confirmed in 2008 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Since then, many politicians have tried to push this amendment again. A few years ago, Democrat Senator Larry Farnese tried to pass a bill that would have added LGBT people to the state's hate crimes law.
Last year, state officials Kevin J. Boyle (a Democrat) and Tom Murqui (a Republican) also tried to bring these protections.
All attemps failed.
Now we can be protected against non-violent acts, but there is still no protection against hate crimes in Pennsylvania.