Pennsylvania, a state of contrasts, boasts areas that are both progressive and inclusive. While the LGBTQ+ community in Pennsylvania enjoys most rights similar to non-LGBTQ+ residents, challenges persist in terms of legal protection and social acceptance. This article delves into the current state of LGBTQ+ rights in Pennsylvania, highlights the best places for LGBTQ+ individuals to live, and introduces resources and organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ Rights in Pennsylvania
In 1980, Pennsylvania legalized same-sex sexual activity, followed by the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2014. Same-sex couples and families enjoy comparable protections, including adoption, inheritance, and healthcare benefits. Notably, the state allows transgender individuals to change their legal gender on birth certificates and driver’s licenses without surgery or a court order.
However, Pennsylvania lacks a statewide law explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. Some cities and counties, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, and Reading, have implemented local ordinances banning such discrimination, but these cover only about a third of the state’s population.
In 2018, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) issued guidance interpreting existing state law to include sexual orientation and gender identity under sex discrimination, offering some protection to LGBTQ+ individuals. Yet, this guidance lacks legal binding and can be legally challenged.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, declaring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity a form of sex discrimination, extends federal protection to LGBTQ+ employees in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
Pennsylvania also harbors laws potentially detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community, such as a 1987 anti-obscenity ordinance and the absence of a statewide ban on conversion therapy for minors, leaving the majority of LGBTQ+ youth vulnerable to this harmful practice.
Best Places to Live as an LGBTQ+ Person in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s urban centers host a diverse and vibrant LGBTQ+ community. Some recommended places for LGBTQ+ individuals to reside include:
- Philadelphia: The birthplace of the American LGBTQ+ rights movement, Philadelphia has a rich history of advocacy and visibility. It offers a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and various resources, including the Office of LGBT Affairs and a dedicated Human Relations Commission.
- Pittsburgh: Embracing diversity, Pittsburgh boasts a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, supported by a strong anti-discrimination law. The city has a Mayor’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council and a Commission on Human Relations.
- Reading: Known for innovation and diversity, Reading attracts LGBTQ+ individuals with its growing population and lively scene. It has a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, a Human Relations Commission, and a Police LGBTQ+ Liaison.
- New Hope: A haven for the LGBTQ+ community, New Hope has a long history of acceptance. With a local anti-discrimination law, the town promotes LGBTQ+ visibility and vitality through various events.
Resources and Organizations for the LGBTQ+ Community in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania offers diverse resources and organizations supporting the LGBTQ+ community, including:
- Equality Pennsylvania: Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights statewide, Equality Pennsylvania focuses on education, lobbying, litigation, and grassroots mobilization.
- Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center: Serving the Lehigh Valley, this center provides health, wellness, and pride programs for the LGBTQ+ community.
- LGBT Center of Central PA: The regional LGBTQ+ community center in Central Pennsylvania offers health programs, education, support groups, and community outreach.
- Persad Center: As the oldest LGBTQ+ counseling center in the state, Persad Center provides mental health and substance abuse services.
- Attic Youth Center: The only LGBTQ+ youth center in Philadelphia, the Attic Youth Center offers a safe and supportive environment, life skills training, counseling, and community engagement opportunities.
Pennsylvania stands out as a state with a diverse and vibrant LGBTQ+ community, especially in its urban centers. While LGBTQ+ individuals enjoy most rights, challenges persist in terms of legal protection and social acceptance. Highlighted places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, and New Hope celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, various resources and organizations, such as Equality Pennsylvania and community centers, contribute to fostering a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals across the state.