Central PA's LGBT News Source

Will PA pass LGBT civil rights?

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta brings optimism, pragmatism to job

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“I bring endless optimism mixed with lots of pragmatism to my job as a legislator,” State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta tells The Central Voice.

Openly-gay Kenyatta is a North Philadelphia community activist and currently represents the 181st District. He is secretary of the House State Government Committee, the oversight committee where the future of LGBT civil rights in the Keystone State will be determined.

Kenyatta’s optimism and pragmatism will come into play when the legislature returns from its summer recess.

Last May, Rep. Dan Frankel introduced House Bill 1404 and Sen. Larry Farnese introduced Senate Bill 614. With similar language, they provide basic civil rights for queer individuals. Pennsylvania has had similar legislation introduced in 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2018. And that’s where all activity stopped.

“We need to get this done,” Kenyatta stresses. When Kenyatta talks to his legislative colleagues, he tells CV, he finds support expressed verbally “but then I find no action, no follow through.” He is dismayed that he could not get support for a resolution honoring the 50thanniversary of Stonewall which took place this past summer.

“I realize Pennsylvania is a huge, rural state with cultural differences and two large urban areas – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But polls show that Pennsylvanians support equal civil rights” for the LGBT community.

In fact, polls show that voters across Pennsylvania overwhelmingly support LGBT-inclusive policies and are less likely to vote for a candidate who does not, according to The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Pennsylvania (now defunct). For both organizations, Hart Research Associates one year out from the 2018 midterm elections conducted polling that showed “the data clearly show that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support LGBT equality,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs said at the time. “These polling results make it clear -- hate is not a winning political strategy.”

Kenyatta agrees. “When are we going to create a state that is fair and works for everyone,” he asks.

Openly-gay PA State Rep. Brian Sims, 182nd District, said that he drives through “four zones getting from home to his seat in the General Assembly. In two, I have protections. In two I do not. I have protections depending on where I stop my car. I think we’ve had enough.”

“It’s unacceptable that today, there are Pennsylvanians who must be afraid that they’ll lose their job or home simply because of who they are. As some of my colleagues have been advocating for this legislation for the past 20 years, it’s time we get serious about it. It’s literally lifesaving,” Sims said.

“Imagine that we’re catching up with Kentucky,” Sims told CV. Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern state without basic civil rights for LGBT individuals.

Locally, Keystone Business Alliance, the region’s LGBT chamber in attendance when the twin  measures were introduced last May, has endorsed Open to All, anationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding and discussion about the importance of nondiscrimination laws. There are more than 200 other US organizations and businesses supporting the campaign, according to the campaign's

web site.