Pennsylvania Bans Discrimination Based On ‘Hairstyles,’ ‘Gender Identity Or Expression’

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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  • The Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted to update the definitions of sex, race and religious creed in its nondiscrimination regulation.
  • The regulation was praised by Democrats while one Republican claimed it the regulation is beyond the Human Relation Commission’s authority.
  • Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said that “hate has no place in Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved along party lines changes to the state’s nondiscrimination policy to include updated definitions of sex, race and religious creed on Thursday, ABC27 News reported.

The regulation more specifically defines the three categories as protected classes under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act (PFEOA), according to the IRRC website. The definitions can be applied to complaints regarding discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accomodations.

The definition of “sex” was officially updated to include “pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development,” the text reads. The definition of race was expanded to 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,” while religious creed now applies to all religious beliefs and practices.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf praised Thursday’s vote and declared that “hate has no place in Pennsylvania.”

“This includes protecting the rights of individuals facing discrimination by a school, landlord, or employer based on who they love or their gender identity,” Wolf said in a press release. “Today’s approval by the commonwealth’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission is another important step to ensure all Pennsylvanians can live with dignity and freedom.”

Wolf is concluding his final term as Pennsylvania Governor after serving in office since 2015. He will be replaced by Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shaprio, who defeated Republican candidate Doug Mastriano by almost 15 points.

George Bedwick, Democratic appointee and regulatory panel chairman, told ABC27 News “that the Legislature has not adopted definitions over the course of numerous, numerous years.” Republican John Soroko, also on the IRRC, said that he opposed the change because he believes the regulation is beyond the Human Relations Commission’s authority. (RELATED: Federal Judge Strikes Down A Key Part Of president Biden’s Transgender Agenda)

The Pennsylvania House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus co-chairs Democratic Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Jessica Benham said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” and “embarrassing” that Pennsylvania did not have a nondiscrimination law protecting the LGBTQ+ community. The co-chairs then condemned Republican lawmakers for impeding similar laws from prevailing in the Legislature.

“While our caucus fought tooth-and-nail for more comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, like the PA Fairness Act, in previous legislative sessions, the Republican majority at the time did everything they could to obstruct and prevent progress,” they said in the statement.

The pair then said they “look forward to re-introducing the PA Fairness Act to enshrine these protections into our state law.”

Pennsylvania is one of 21 states that does not have a law banning LGBTQ+ discrimination, according to Wolf’s press release. Wolf previously supported both the Fairness Act, which prohibited discrimination against LGBTQ+ in housing, education and public accommodation, and the CROWNE Act, which sought to ban discrimination based on a person’s hair texture.

The press release cited both bills’ failure to be the reason Wolf’s administration sought to push the proposal though regulation, not legislation.

“The Independent Regulatory Review Commission was created to provide an independent oversight of the rulemaking process in Pennsylvania. Its role is to provide a thorough and public vetting of new regulations and determine whether they are in the public interest,” Pennsylvania IRRC Executive Director David Sumner told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Today, by a majority vote, the Commission approved a proposal from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to further define and clarify protected classes in our state.  These definitions were found to be within the statutory authority of the Human Relations Commission and the broad purposes of the Human Relations Act to protect Pennsylvanians from discrimination. ”

Wolf, the IRRC, Soroko, Kenyatta and Benham did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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