Pro Bono Publico

By T. Amelia Schmidt
Staff Writer/Spectator

By now, most have read the headlines coming from the Indiana state legislature.  Governor Mike Pence recently signed into law a new religious freedom law that would give business owners a stronger defense in court for refusing service to members of the LGBT community on the basis of faith.

While this controversial law is seen as a protection of civil liberties by some and an infringement by others, one central question remains: is the law necessary? 

It is this query that led the Republican governor to call for additional refinement of the law.

To date, Indiana does not have a statewide law barring businesses from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation like it does for discrimination based on race. 

This means businesses operating in the state may refuse service to LGBT customers under the current law or lack thereof. 

But Indiana is not the only state where legal statutes have not kept pace with changing social values; currently 29 states do not have any law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

This number is drastically large in comparison to only 13 states that do not legally recognize same-sex marriage, but it also means something more significant: 16 states in the country provide marriage equality, but not protection against discrimination to their residence, and Pennsylvania is one of them.

“We have some work to do here in Pennsylvania as well,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a blog post. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that doesn’t prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

Wolf asserts Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers on the basis of tolerance and equality, and that such a state should not be without a law protecting its LGBT citizens. 

Last week, Wolf urged Pennsylvanians to petition their representatives to draft legislation for an anti-discrimination law.

“With your help, we can show the world that Pennsylvania is the place William Penn envisioned,” Wolf said. “Inclusive and open for all.”

T. Amelia Schmidt is a staff writer for the Spectator. She can be reached by eupnews.spectator@gmail.com