Advocates address ‘historic’ LGBT discrimination cases before Supreme Court

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Advocates who work on behalf of millions of Pennsylvanians say the Supreme Court taking up the issue of workplace LGBTQ discrimination is long overdue.

It’s especially important here in Pennsylvania, they say, stressing it is not a matter of if discrimination happens – but when.

“We still, every week, have Pennsylvanians who are being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” said Todd Snovel, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.

Snovel says it is a startling reality. He works across all 67 counties and often deals with LGBTQ people facing discrimination in all aspects of life.

“Folks that are either not being able to retain employment, get employment, are being passed over for promotion,” Snovel said.

The issue for Pennsylvania lies in its lack of comprehensive, statewide protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. Both things are central parts of the three cases the Supreme Court heard Tuesday.

“We’re excited that the courts are finally taking up this issue,” said Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s state victim advocate.

She calls the high court’s decision to even hear the cases historic.

“It’s a real serious issue when you’re talking about people’s liberty and their ability to be employed and to have housing adequate housing,” Storm said. “Nobody should be discriminated against and have a job taken from them, or get thrown out of housing or get thrown out of a restaurant just because of who they are.”

Snovel says having protections for LGBTQ people on the books would have an economic impact, too.

“It means retaining people in Pennsylvania for jobs. It means growth in our economy. It means a more educated workforce,” he said.

The core issue of the oral arguments heard Tuesday is whether or not the federal anti-discrimination law known as Title VII protects gay and trans workers.

A decision on the cases isn’t expected anytime soon.

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