Gov. Tom Corbett, a conservative Republican who recently infuriated LGBT activists and allies by claiming that marriage equality was legally equivalent to incest and marriage between children, adopted a decisively different tone in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer Wednesday.
The incumbent governor, who previously served eight years as Pennsylvania's attorney general, told the Inquirer he's now ready to come out for LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination protections in his state.
"I've had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against," said Corbett. "The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it."
But federal law does not prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or promote someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The federal legislation that would enact such a law, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, passed the U.S. Senate for the first time earlier this year, but has yet to come to a vote in the House.
Pennsylvania state law does not currently prohibit discrimination in public accommodation, housing, education, or employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A bill that would make it illegal to fire someone for being LGBT was introduced in the state House earlier this year, but has since failed to move out of committee. Pennyslvania is also the only state in the Northeastern U.S. that has yet to embrace marriage equality.
But Pennsylvania does have two openly gay state representatives — one Republican (Rep. Mike Fleck) and one Democrat.
The latter, Philadelphia's Rep. Brian Sims, issued a statement commending the governor's move toward equality today.
"I have long believed that equality is not a one-party issue," said Sims. "We continue to see our elected officials in Pennsylvania coming out on the right side of history, and Governor Corbett is no exception to this trend. Last month, Senator Pat Toomey, also a conservative Republican, voted to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate, demonstrating to Americans across the country that support for LGBT civil rights and a conservative ideology are not mutually exclusive. To those conservative leaders in our government who have shied away from being vocal about non-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania, I hope this is a green light to openly support non-discrimination legislation."