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The LGBT Caucus held a news conference in Harrisburg today to reveal the results of a new poll about LGBT rights (courtesy of Rep. Sims)

The LGBT Caucus held a news conference in Harrisburg today to reveal the results of a new poll about LGBT rights (courtesy of Rep. Sims)

Today, the Pennsylvania legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus announced that there’s strong support for LGBT civil rights in a new Pennsylvania poll.

“The LGBT Equality Caucus now has 58 members, more than double the 26 from the last session, and it includes members from both parties and both the House and Senate,” said State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware), co-chairman of the caucus, in a news conference at the Capitol in Harrisburg today. “These voices for equal rights come from throughout Pennsylvania, from Erie and Allegheny counties in the west; Dauphin, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lancaster and Berks counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania; to the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and its suburbs.”

Philly’s own openly gay Rep. Brian Sims took to the podium to share his insights into the poll results and growing support among fellow legislators. “It comes as no surprise to me to see these levels of support for LGBT equality in the Commonwealth,” he said. “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.”

The poll, conducted by the Pittsburgh firm CivicScience for Equality Pennsylvania, asked three key questions, including, “Do you agree or disagree that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens should be entitled to the same civil rights and protections as other minority groups?” As many as 62 percent agreed that protections should be in place to protect against discrimination (29 percent disagreed).

Respondents were also asked about employment protections, which are currently lacking on the state level. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they agree that LGBT employees should be protected from being terminated due to sexual orientation or gender identity (24 disagreed). And 72 percent said they believe businesses should be prohibited from denying service to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity (28 percent did not).

“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 caucus who reintroduced a bill (H.B. 300) that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. “That’s why it has enjoyed roughly 70 percent support in Pennsylvania for the last decade. The rapid growth of the LGBT Equality Caucus is an encouraging sign of growing support in the General Assembly for equal civil rights, and shows we have gotten a slow start, but we’re playing quick catch-up.”

Sims added, “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.”

Equality PA has been working closely with the caucus to spotlight legislative issues that are important to LGBT rights in the state. “Any member of the General Assembly who is reluctant to vote in support of LGBT civil rights should look at the more than doubling in size of the LGBT Equality Caucus from last session coupled with our overwhelmingly positive poll numbers for reassurance that their colleagues are there and the public is with them,” says Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA. “Pennsylvania is the worst state in the northeast when it comes to how we treat our LGBT citizens, and now is clearly the time to trade in that sad title.”

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