Pennsylvania Gays Rock the Dome

Hundreds of LGBT Pennsylvanians gathered Tuesday at the state capitol to demand passage of a bill that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and accommodations.

BY Daniel Denvir

March 16 2009 11:00 PM ET

PENNSYLVANIA RALLY 200903 X390 (DANIEL DENVIR) | ADVOCATE.COM

Opponents of the bill
say that the protections would force religious institutions to
hire gay people against their will and that the law would
be the first step down a slippery slope toward
same-sex marriage. The Pennsylvania Family Institute sent
supporters an action alert asking that they call legislators to
oppose a "radical gay rights bill" and, as a backup
measure, to pray for its defeat.

According to the
institute, "Laws like this one…are being used as hammers
to force Christian ministries and charities to either operate
in ways contrary to their faith and doctrine, face fines and/or
prison, or cease the ministry work. It will force business
owners and landlords to violate their faith and
conscience."

But in a statement,
Pennsylvania ACLU legislative director Andy Hoover says that
the religious right's objections are a smoke screen.
"Federal case law, state case law, and the PHRA itself
exempt religious institutions from civil rights laws when
following the law violates a tenet or belief of the
faith."

Neighboring states,
like New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, already offer some
protections. But the passage of such legislation in
Pennsylvania, a state with strong pockets of Christian
conservatism, would show that the nation's political tide
is truly shifting in support of LGBT rights.

Tags: Politics

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