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Committee Approves Fontana Amendment to Ban Workplace Sexual Orientation Discrimination
On June 22, 2016
HARRISBURG, June 22, 2016 – A state Senate committee today approved Sen. Wayne D. Fontana’s (D-Allegheny) amendment that would outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“My proposal puts the force of law behind basic human rights and freedoms,” Fontana said. “It also sends a clear message that our society will no longer condone or tolerate the kind of baseless ignorance and hatred that compels some people to discriminate against their fellow citizens.”
The Fontana amendment was tacked onto Senate Bill 1307, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), which would amend the state’s Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity/expression on the list of prohibited forms of discrimination in terms of housing. The law currently bans discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability.
Under the legislation, “Sexual orientation” is defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. “Gender Identity or expression” means one’s gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, expression or other gender-related characteristics of an individual regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.
Fontana’s amendment bans employers and labor organizations from asking about, imposing limiting recruitment or imposing hiring quotas based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Fontana proposal does, however, allow employers to require employees to adhere to reasonable dress and grooming standards as long as they are consistent with the employee’s gender, identity, or expression.
The Brookline lawmaker called Senate Bill 1307 a “good step forward” toward providing additional protections for gay and transgendered individuals.
“While I would concede that this effort does not provide all of the protections called for in Senate Bill 974, this measure provides significant new protections and has the bipartisan legislative support to make it into law,” Fontana said. “This amendment continues the tradition of striking a balance between advancing non-discrimination protections for people most commonly discriminated against and protecting religious liberty.”
Senate Bill 974, which Fontana co-sponsored, has been stalled in the Senate State Government Committee since September of 2015. The Senate Committee on Urban Affairs and Housing approved the Fontana amendment by a vote of 6-5. The committee approved the amended Senate Bill 1307 by a vote of 7-4. The amended bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
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