First, I feel as though I should introduce myself: My name is Aidan and I am the outreach intern for the fall semester. This is my first time living in Pennsylvania and I have been interning with Equality Advocates for a little over a month. This week’s installment of my musings is on my first adventure outside the office: the York Town Hall meeting.
(Aren’t I Fabulous?)
On Wednesday, October 10, Jake and I set out on our trip through the beautiful and corn-filled country side of Pennsylvania. We made our way out of Philadelphia and drove west into the sun.
(Jake dancing it up)
The town hall meeting in York was a time for discussion on the importance of House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761. This legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to include protections against discrimination of LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
I have to give props to the organizers of the event, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Value all Families Coalition; namely Andy Hoover for his wonderful organization of the event and Larry Frankel for speaking and being on hand to answer questions. The event started with Larry Frankel’s debriefing of the HB 1400 hearings that took place earlier in Pittsburgh and Erie. Representatives Nickol (R) and DePasquale (D), both co-sponsors of HB 1400, spoke next about their support of the bill. Rep. Nickol spoke eloquently about how he came to an understanding of the need for this bill through face-to-face discussions with LGBT people and their experiences with discrimination.
Rep. DePasquale discussed his easy decision to support HB 1400. To paraphrase, the bill’s importance is apparent because everyone, whether LGBT or not, should be free from discrimination. Both Representatives agreed that there is still much work to be done on both sides, Democrat and Republican, to ensure successful passage of the bills.
Andy Hoover then took the mic to introduce the panel of speakers: Steve Glassman, Chair of the PA Human Relations Commission; Rabbi Carl Chopper, from the Interfaith Alliance of PA; Rev. Sandy Strauss, from the PA Council of Churches; and Dan Miller, openly gay Harrisburg City Councilman.
Steve Glassman gave a passionate explanation about the importance of the two bills and how they would be integrated into the existing PHRA. He also spoke about the national Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and its possible ramifications on HB 1400 and SB 761.
Both Rabbi Chopper and Rev. Strauss spoke compellingly about people of faith and the necessity that those people stand with the LGBT community. This discussion is one of great importance in understanding that people of faith and the LGBT community can work together for social change throughout Pennsylvania. Rabbi Chopper emphasized the idea, “to work is to live”; without work there is no life, only forced poverty. God’s word is of love, and not hate was the message of both speakers.
Finally, Dan Miller gave testimony to the necessity of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the PHRA by speaking openly about his own experience of employment discrimination. He stressed that though he went through great hardship, he was lucky enough to have the support he needed to make it through, while others may have little or none.
The event ended with time for questions from the audience about specific parts of the PHRA such as its religious exemption and its possible effects on LGBT youth within foster care.
The York Town Hall meeting was a great experience and wonderfully informative. Thank you to all those who spoke, Andy Hoover and Larry Frankel, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Value All Families Coalition for an excellent event.
As the night ended, Jake and I went on our way back through the countryside taking in the culture of Route 30…
That’s it til’ next time,