New push for gay civil rights in Pa. legislature

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FILE - In this file photo taken June 17, 2008, a same-sex couple hold hands during their wedding ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco. County clerk offices opened their doors June 17, 2008, to hundreds of gay and lesbian couples with appointments to secure marriage licenses and exchange vows on the first full day same-sex nuptials were legal throughout California. (AP Photo/Darryl Bush, File)

Beyond the contentious issue of same-sex marriage, a poll released Wednesday by the group Equality Pennsylvania found overwhelming support in the state for civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people on the job and in public accommodations.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents to the online poll agreed with the statement that LGBT people should be “protected” from being fired because of sexual orientation or identity. By contrast, 24 percent disagreed. (Among those who said they were Republican, 61 percent agreed and 28 percent disagreed with the statement.)

And 72 percent said that hotels and other businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to people because of sexual orientation or identity, with 18 percent disagreeing. (For Republicans, the numbers were 62 percent and 28 percent, respectively.)

"Passing non-discrimination legislation for employment and housing is the right thing to do, and Pennsylvanians know it,” said state Rep. Dan Frankel (D.,Allegheny), co-chairman of the legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus. He said he would reintroduce House Bill 300, which would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accomodations.

The bill expired with no action taken in the last 2011-12 session of the legislature.

“While many Pennsylvanians are still evolving on LGBT civil rights, a strong majority agree that LGBT people like me should not lose our jobs or be denied a table at a restaurant or a room in a hotel based simply on who we are,” said state Rep. Brian Sims (D.,Phila.), the first openly gay member elected to the legislature. “More importantly, I'm seeing signs every day that more of my colleagues in the state Capitol are finally beginning to hear this message from their constituents and are recognizing that commonsense protections against these forms of discrimination are long overdue.”

There are 58 members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, double the number at the beginning on the last legislative session.

The poll was conducted for Equality Pennsylvania by CivicScience, a Pittsburgh firm that uses online applications to measure public opinion, on Jan. 29 and 30. Responses from 1,000 self-identified adults were weighted to reflect the state’s population based on the 2010 census.

In the political world, most pollsters prefer live telephone interviews, but CivicScience says it gets good results. Here is more information about its methodology.