Corbett Backs Ban on Sexual Orientation Discrimination Governor Says He Would Support Bill Protecting Gay Rights in Employment, Housing

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - In a marked shift toward the political center, Gov. Corbett said Tuesday that he would support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Mr. Corbett, who has previously staked out conservative positions on social issues, told The Inquirer that he was "coming out in support" of the bill after learning that federal law does not cover discrimination in the state.

"I've had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against," said Mr. Corbett, who served for eight years as the state's attorney general. "The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it."

Mr. Corbett's support of legislation that has languished in the General Assembly for a decade is viewed by many advocates as a major step forward on a civil rights issue.

"This is remarkably big news," said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, a statewide gay rights advocacy group. "His leadership will move the issue forward in a way that is long overdue."

Currently, 23 states, including all of the Northeastern United States, and 33 Pennsylvania municipalities have nondiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Also, 23 Fortune 500 companies based in Pennsylvania have similar nondiscrimination policies.

Companion bills in the House and Senate to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act were introduced this year by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, with bipartisan support. But both pieces of legislation have failed to move out of their respective committees.

Mr. Corbett's decision comes as his administration is locked in a federal court battle over same-sex marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in July on behalf of gay and lesbian plaintiffs who contend that banning marriage violates their constitutional rights. …