Fight for Equality Comes to State College
Equality advocates stopped in State College Thursday to bring together community leaders to declare their support for ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pennsylvania citizens.
The Thursday morning event, held in front of the HUB-Robeson Center on the Penn State campus, is part of a six-week Equality PA tour.
Equality PA is an organization that lobbies legislators at a federal, state and municipal level. Group members were joined by State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, Pastor Dean Lindsey of State College Presbyterian Church, Allison Subasic, director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center and Heather Benjamin, owner of Benjamin's Catering.
Sam Gehler, spokesperson for Equality PA, says the purpose of the statewide campaign is to inform voters about legal discrimination against LGBT people in Pennsylvania. Small business, faith leaders and Fortune 500 companies from across the state have already shown their support for the cause.
"We are traveling around the state to highlight all the support for nondiscrimination in every corner of the commonwealth," Gehler says. "More than 68 percent of Pennsylvanians agree that it’s time to end discrimination. Now we just need for our leaders in Harrisburg to act.”
The campaign is also designed to focus attention on Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 300. If passed, the legislation will update the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to ensure that all Pennsylvanians, including the LGBT community, will be treated fairly at work, in housing and in public accommodation. The bill is co-sponsored by 96 Representatives and 25 Senators.
Goreham was one of the speakers who voiced support for the fight to end discrimination. The State College Borough is one of 35 municipalities in the state to pass ordinances protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination.
Goreham says one thing she strongly believes in is democracy. For democracy to exist, she says, there must be equality, no matter a person's sexuality or gender.
"[LGBT individuals] are excluded from normal human activity," Goreham says. "This is a wrong we must right. I applaud Equality PA for bringing this across the state."
To illustrate his experience with discrimination, Lindsey related that when he and his wife bought a house in Houston years ago, there were rules in place that it could not be sold to people of certain races.
When Lindsey and his wife were assured this was an outdated practice, he says he thought: "How wonderful we can talk about discrimination like this as a thing of the past."
But he says he was wrong and that discrimination of this type still exists today for LGBT individuals.
"Within my faith tradition, we have prayed together, studied together, listened to one another and argued a great deal, too, but we are united in this belief: There is no moral justification for denying the basic requirements of social existence to any person on the basis of sexual orientation," Lindsey says. "Discrimination is immoral. We look forward to the day when we can call this type of legal discrimination a thing of the past.”