The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 7, 2013

Local senators back anti-discrimination bill

JOHNSTOWN — Forty percent of Pennsylvania’s state legislators, including two local senators, sponsored anti-discrimination bills introduced in Harrisburg on Tuesday.

Sens. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, and Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar, co-sponsored Senate Bill 300, introduced by Sens. Pat Browne and Larry Farnese.

None of the area’s seven representatives co-sponsored House Bill 300, as put forth by Reps. Dan Frankel and Chris Ross.

The proposed measures would ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to employment, public accommodations, credit or housing.

“I live by the Golden Rule, and I treat people the way I’d like to be treated if you want to put a Christian view on it,” Wozniak said when discussing his support for the bill.

Janet Palovich, president of the Johnstown Chapter of the Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Newsletter, added, “I think having (Wozniak and Kasunic) is going to make people open their eyes and give it more public notice and maybe some more support, which is what is really needed.”

All told, 102 legislators – 77 representatives and 25 senators – sponsored the plan. Similar measures have been introduced multiple times in the past.

In comparison, only two legislators cosponsored the state’s first proposed nondiscrimination bill that included language about sexual orientation, back in the 1970s.

“It’s May 2013; I think American society has matured,” Wozniak said.

The proposed legislation is part of an ongoing effort to have a sexual orientation-based nondiscrimination policy enacted within the commonwealth.

“It’s a matter of moral responsibility to understand that nobody should be discriminated against,” said Jason Landau Goodman, executive director of The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.

Since 1982, 30 governmental bodies within Pennsylvania have passed nondiscrimination ordinances, with State College, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County being closest to the Johns­town region.

Suburban and Rural Alliance of Pennsylvania recently formed in order to help networks of gay rights advocates work together in an attempt to advance ordinances.

Locally, LGBT Johnstown was launched within the past few months.

“It’s about raising the awareness that we do exist,” said Michael Campbell, LGBT Johnstown founder. “I think, at least as a young person from the area, it wasn’t talked about and it still isn’t.”

Neither Johnstown nor Cambria County has any specific LGBT-based anti-discrimination laws.

Cambria County Commissioner Mark Wissinger said he has never been formally approached about the subject, then added, “As far as the county, we’re for equal rights. It’s not who you are, it’s what you’re capable of.”

Johnstown City Manager Kristen Denne said, “The city would be more than happy to speak with anybody about this issue.”

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