The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 6, 2013

Rally cry: Equality for all in Pennsylvania

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — The political buttons Sara Campbell and others were wearing summarized the reasons local citizens gathered Saturday on the east lawn of Mercer County Courthouse.

The “Pennsylvania Equality Picnic” that Campbell helped to organize through Central West Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania aimed to rally support for local ordinances and a state law to ban discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

They would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians from discrimination or retaliation in employment, housing, education and such public accommodations as restaurants, businesses and transportation.

Amending the state’s Human Relations Law to accomplish that goal was summed up in one of Campbell’s buttons.

“Mr. Corbett, tear down this law,” the button demanded of the governor, paraphrasing President Ronald Reagan who in 1987 famously urged the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

Another of Campbell’s buttons demanded “marriage equality now, also a focus of the midday rally that drew about 75 people.

It featured both music and speakers including Stephen A. Glassman, a cabinet official in former Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration who called for action on the anti-discrimination legislation in Harrisburg.

The keynote speaker, who is gay, was confirmed by the Senate to serve eight years as chairman of the state Human Relations Commission.

The anti-discrimination policies in the bill already have been adopted by 486 of the Fortune 500 companies, including Pennsylvania-based UPMC, PNC and Highmark, Glassman said.

Allegheny and Erie counties and Pittsburgh are among the 31 municipalities that have adopted anti-discrimination ordinances.

Fifty years after passage of federal and state civil rights laws that have benefited black people, other ethnic and religious minorities and women, discrimination still threatens LGBT Pennsylvanians, Glassman said.

Keystone State leaders’ attitudes on the issue lag not only those in business and 14 states that allow same-sex marriage, they are at odds with polls that Glassman said show majority support for the anti-discrimination bill among Pennsylvanians.

Enough lawmakers in both chambers have expressed support to pass it but the bill is being blocked in the House where Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, chairman of the State Government Committee, won’t release it to the floor.

Campbell, who lives in West Middlesex, said the group she helped to form last spring is willing to work for passage locally as well as in Harrisburg.

“We want to work on getting anti-discrimination ordinances passed in Hermitage, Sharon, Farrell and Mercer,” she said. “We’ll grow from there.”