Progress: Governor Wolf signs executive orders protecting LGBT state employees from discrimination

Posted on April 7, 2016

In a big step forward for Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders today that will expand non-discrimination protections for LGBT state employees.

The first order mandates that no state agency discriminate against state employees or applicants on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender expression or identity” among other characteristics. The second prohibits state contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In signing the orders Governor Wolf noted his concern that the legislature has still not taken up the question of providing statewide non-discrimination protections, and based on that felt compelled to take action to protect state employees and all LGBT Pennsylvanians.

“We must show that Pennsylvania is the place that William Penn envisioned when he founded our commonwealth on the principle that it is open, diverse, and inclusive for all people. I call on the General Assembly to swiftly put legislation on my desk that ensures that people throughout the commonwealth – regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression or identity – are treated equally under Pennsylvania law.”

The decision enhances a current Pennsylvania executive order that prohibits discrimination against LGBT state employees. In 1975, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Sharp made history by signing the first executive order in the world prohibiting state employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2003, Governor Ed Rendell expanded the executive order to include protections from discrimination based on gender identity. Each governor since allowed the order and these state employment protections to continue.

Governor Wolf’s signing today is an important step forward for LGBT rights in Pennsylvania, and it signals momentum for statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections like the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, legislation to update the state’s Human Relations Act to extend non-discrimination protections to gay and transgender Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania Competes, a business advocacy organization working to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, today expressed its appreciation for Governor Wolf, but noted the fight to protect gay and transgender Pennsylvanians is far from over. Executive orders do not carry the weight of the law, and their impact is limited to public employees – and moreover, they are limited to the tenure of the governor who took action. Pennsylvania’s next governor could rescind this order on day one.

All LGBT Pennsylvanians must be protected from discrimination, no matter where they live or where they work. Add you voice to the debate and send a message to lawmakers today urging them to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act this year. Just click here.

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