April 13th, 2016

Governor Wolf’s Monumental Step to Discourage Discrimination

Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders on April 8th preventing Pennsylvania agencies from discriminating against state employees and contractors on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. Notably, one of the orders addresses Commonwealth employees and the other addresses the grants and procurement process of the Commonwealth.

The Governor’s recent actions are in response to several States proposing bills and passing laws that allow for government employees and faith-based organizations to discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population under the guise of “religious freedom”.  Some of these states are already experiencing the detrimental effects of these laws on their economies, including the recent decision by PayPal to pull its project in North Carolina.

This is the first deliberate step taken by Governor Wolf in discouraging discrimination against the LGBT community.  There is an expectation that this action by Governor Wolf may have a positive effect on the state’s economy by encouraging business in the Commonwealth.  Further, this action may reignite discussions by the state legislature with regard to HB 300.  HB 300, which has been sitting in the state legislature since 2013, provides for “freedom from discrimination in ­employment, housing and public accommodation; defining ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression’; and further providing for unlawful discriminatory practices, for prohibition of certain real estate practices, for powers and duties of commission, for educational program and for construction and exclusiveness of remedy.”

While these Executive Orders impact only Pennsylvania agencies, business owners as a whole should be aware of local ordinances that similarly prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.  These local ordinances have been passed by numerous municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.