Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf Enhances LGBT-Inclusive Executive Order, Extending Protections to State Contractors

By Adam Polaski • April 6, 2016 • 4:20 pm

In a big step forward for Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf announced today that he will sign an executive order that will prohibit all state contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.


The decision enhances a Pennsylvania executive order that prohibits discrimination against LGBT state employees. In 1975, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Sharp made history by signing the first executive order in the world prohibiting state employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2003, Governor Ed Rendell expanded the executive order to include protections from discrimination based on gender identity. Each governor since allowed the order and these state employment protections to continue.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

Governor Wolf has taken an important step in the right direction today by signing two executive orders that will protect thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians from discrimination. All people should have the same opportunity to work hard, provide for themselves and their families, and live safely without fear of discrimination. But we have not reached the finish line. Executive orders do not carry the weight of the law, apply solely to public employees, and can be overturned after the tenure ends of the governor who took action. The legislature should take the final step and codify these protections permanently in state law.

Governor Wolf’s decision today, which will expand employment protections to more LGBT Pennsylvania, marks a significant step forward – and signals growing momentum in Pennsylvania for comprehensive federal non-discrimination. But despite the step forward, in Pennsylvania (and in nearly 30 other states), LGBT people have no state-wide non-discrimination protections.

That’s why more than 1,000 businesses in Pennsylvania and thousands of advocates across the state have come together to push for full statewide LGBT protections with Pennsylvania Competes. Pennsylvania Competes is working to advance the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would ensure that no one in the Keystone State is denied employment, housing, or service in public spaces simply because of who they are or who they love.

Executive orders prohibiting anti-LGBT employment discrimination in state employment are on the books (or will be soon) in Alaska, Montana, and Louisiana, among others. These executive orders send a strong message that LGBT public employees should be treated fairly and equally – and they mark an important step forward in states without statewide non-discrimination protections.

However, these orders do not carry the weight of the law, and their impact is limited to public employees – and moreover, they are limited to the tenure of the governor who took action. Just last year, for example, Governor Brownback in Kansas allowed an LGBT-inclusive executive order to expire – and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin rescinded the state’s order just a few months ago.  Therefore, it is critical that state legislators in each of these states with LGBT non-discrimination executive orders codify these protections through state law.

Learn more about Pennsylvania Competes here – and read about the long fight toward this momentous step forward in PA on the Freedom for All Americans state page.




[fbcomments url=""]