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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Pennsylvania Panel to Vote on Anti-Discrimination Measure, Naturally Conservatives are Mad

A Pennsylvania regulatory commission is voting on whether to set extensive definitions for sex, race, and gender discrimination.

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Black women in Rainbow Flag
Photo: We Are (Getty Images)

Another day another group of conservatives railing against protections for oppressed groups. Glad nothing in this country ever really changes.

The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission is set to vote on a proposal which would add extensive definitions for what constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex, race and gender. Advocates say that adding clarity to the definitions will help make it easier to bring discrimination complaints and help prevent discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public accommodations.

“There are some issues where it’s very clear where the discrimination has happened or hasn’t happened,” Rachel Wentworth, executive director of the Fort Washington-based Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania, said according to the AP. “But there’s a lot of gray areas, areas where the laws are worded in a way that’s more broad. So we really welcome any type of regulation or guidance which clarifies some of what’s covered under those laws.”

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Honestly, it sounds like a reasonable way to crack down on discrimination. It wasn’t until 2018, that the commission even accepted complaints about discrimination against LGBTQ folks. So it makes sense the committee would want to more strongly define when legally actionable discrimination is occurring.

Naturally, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are pissed. State Rep. Seth Grove wrote a letter to the Commission arguing that this was an attempt to run around the legislature.

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“The policy choice of whether Pennsylvania should extend the definition of ‘sex discrimination’ in such a manner remains just that: a policy choice,” Grove said, according to the AP. “As such, it is squarely and exclusively the prerogative of the General Assembly to pursue.”

An additional group of 11 Republican state Senators joined into Grove’s calls against the proposal, agreeing that it was regulatory overreach.

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The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference was also not a fan of the new definitions arguing that it would harm religious freedom. (To be clear: state law allows religious organizations to hire or employ someone on sex-based grounds if it’s relevant to their job).

So what exactly are the changes everyone is so feverishly objecting to?

The changes would define discrimination on the basis of “sex” to include “pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development.”

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Racial discrimination would include “ancestry, national origin, ethnic characteristics, interracial marriages and association, traits such as hairstyles that are historically associated with race, and national origin or ancestry.”

And “religious creed” would “cover all aspects of religious observance, practice and belief.”

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Honestly pretty innocuous stuff here. But we’ll have to stay tuned to see whether these changes go forward.