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A new study shows PA ranks 23rd in lack of LGBTQ+ civil rights and protections.
A new study shows PA ranks 23rd in lack of LGBTQ+ civil rights and protections. Photo: AL DÍA Archives.

PA places 23rd nationally in lack of basic LGBTQ+ civil rights and protections, according to new study

The study ranked all states from best to worst in relation to political, emotional , and health support for LGBTQ+ communities.

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In the newest annual LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), part of the Out Leadership group, Pennsylvania ranks 23rd in the country for lack of basic LGBTQ+ civil rights and protections. According to the study, the state is the only one in the Northeast region without said rights and protections. It is the fourth annual study to be released by the MAP. 

“While the top ranked states for LGBTQ+ equality broadly increased in score, the bottom ranked states decreased in score or remained stagnant, signaling a widening gap across the country between the ideology of equality and the tactics used to achieve or dismantle it,” Out Leadership CEO Todd Sears told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. “Our data reveals that the gap continues to widen with some states now legislating and regulating what amount to anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies.” 

Sears added that the ranking is “a living roadmap, highlighting the places where we must be both reactive and proactive.” 

Nine other East Coast states, such as Vermont, Maryland, and D.C. have laws in place to protect LGBTQ+ citizens in relation to discrimination in housing, and employment. MAP is a global network for companies and corporations globally as well as its leaders. A few of the companies include Amazon, American Express, CocaCola, Walmart, Nike, and Microsoft. 

The index is a ranking of all 50 states from best to worst in relation to legal, political, emotional support, health, and business for LGBTQ+ citizens. 

Rep. Todd Stephens and R-Montgomery introduced a bill this past July that was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, that removed depictions of homosexuality from the list of illegal sexual acts in the state’s crime code, but many say it was only the first step towards a bigger and better future for Queer Americans. The House and state Senate approved the bill unanimously. Wolf also banned the practice of conversion therapy in the state that has long been proven to not work and only a violation of civil rights.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was the worst year by far in recent times in relation to the amount of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that states introduced and enacted. In May of 2021, the seventeenth anti-LGBTQ+ Law was passed and already in 2022, according to the campaign, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ laws were introduced and visible in over 36 state legislatures. 

This includes two separate bills created by two Pennsylvanian lawmakers and sponsored by Lancaster County Republican Senators Ryan Aument and Scott Martin. The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee pushed the two bills through in what advocates called the bills to be serious attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in the state. 

Preston Heldibridle, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress told the Capital-Star that Sen. Aument’s bill “is essentially a book and education ban on gay and lesbian relationships,” while Sen. Martin’s bill “is an expansive gag order for school personnel on LGBT issues, forces the outing of vulnerable students to parents or guardians, and creates a private right of action if those terms are violated, among other cruel provisions.” 

He also added that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida is not as bad as the two Pennsylvania bills. 

“They are trying to sneak in this horrific, subversive attack on LGBT inclusion under the guise of reasonable limits on sexually explicit content — Those limits already exist. They cherry pick outlandish scenarios to advance categorical bans to appear like defenders of children when in reality, proponents of these bills are the ones exploiting children to further their own goals and causing irreparable harm,” Heldibridle said. 

Sears also mentioned that the current trend of trying to reverse gay rights in America will have an impact on the workforce overall as many are thinking of or already have left their state for a more inclusive one. He says his organization’s gathered data show that the states at the bottom of the ranking or currently dropping to the bottom is because qualified and talented LGBTQ+ individuals are leaving those states and are moving to states that are at the top or moving towards that. 

According to the study, more than 24% of LGBTQ+ workers have left their state for a more inclusive one while 36% are considering moving and 31% would take a pay cut to live in a more inclusive and welcoming environment. 

In Philadelphia specifically, Zachary Wilcha, the executive director of the Independence Business Alliance called for a statewide law to be put in place immediately. 

“The rights of LGBTQ+ individuals vary erratically as you pass from municipality to municipality, depending on which local laws are codified — a fundamental building block of a strong economy is that everybody should be able to participate in all aspects of daily life with dignity and respect and without fear of discrimination,” he said. 

Wilcha added that an individual should not be “at risk of being fired from their job, refused service, or denied housing simply because of who they are or whom they love.”

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