Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell has signed an executive order barring state agencies from discriminating against employees based on their gender identity, adding transgendered people to the list of those whose rights are protected. The order adds "gender identity or expression" to the list that already includes race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and other criteria. It will generally affect people who are transgendered. "The addition of only four words to this short executive order is an important step for the recognition of personal dignity and freedom," Rendell said in a statement.
Rendell spokesman Tom Hickey said the governor wants to make sure he honors people's right to personal freedom and how they express themselves.
Stephen Glassman, chairman of the state's Human Relations Commission, said the change is needed, adding that he is aware of several cases in which people have been fired from state agencies based on their gender identity. "It's a difficult issue for them because there haven't been protections," Glassman said.
Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for Republican house majority leader Sam Smith, said he wasn't sure of the need for the executive order. Miskin said he hadn't ever heard of any discrimination concerning gender identity in state government. "We never knew that this was an issue before," Miskin said. "In a sense, it's just out of the blue." Miskin said he hadn't seen the order and would have to talk with Rendell's office more about the reasons for the change.
About 87,000 employees work for state agencies, boards, and commissions.