LGBT rights in Pennsylvania
|Status||Legal since 1980|
(Legislative repeal in 1995)
|Gender identity||Transgender individuals allowed to change legal gender on birth certificate and driver's license|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation and gender identity protections|
|Recognition of relationships||Same-sex marriage since 2014|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania face some legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Pennsylvania. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are eligible for all of the protections available to opposite-sex married couples. Pennsylvania was the final Mid-Atlantic state without same-sex marriage, indeed lacking any form of same-sex recognition law until its statutory ban was overturned on May 20, 2014.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not explicitly banned in the state, though some cities and counties ban such discrimination, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie and Reading (the five most populous cities in the state). Some cities and counties within Pennsylvania also ban conversion therapy on minors. In August 2018, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission interpreted existing state law covering sex discrimination as including the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity, effectively banning discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, education, and public accommodation.
On June 15, 2020, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination on the basis of sex, and Title VII therefore protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.
Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have vibrant LGBT communities, with pride parades having been held since the 1970s and attracting more than 100,000 attendees as of 2017.
Pennsylvania has repealed its sodomy statutes incrementally. In 1972, legislation legalized consensual sodomy for heterosexual married couples. In 1980, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruling in Commonwealth v. Bonadio found Pennsylvania's sodomy law unconstitutional as violating the equal protection guarantees of both the state and federal constitutions. Pennsylvania repealed its remaining sodomy laws in 1995.
A small town in Pennsylvania Upper Darby within March 2021, voted unanimously to repeal an archaic and forgotten anti-LGBT law. It was also discovered to be maintained within the Pennsylvania Code of Statutes as well. In May 2021, the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted twice over "that rejected" to repeal the archaic statewide obscenity law - that explicitly lists 'homosexuality'.
Main article: Same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania
Same-sex marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania on May 20, 2014, when U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf that the state's statutory ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. After the ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court on July 9, 2013, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she would refuse to defend the statute.
Previously, Pennsylvania did not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. Attempts had been made in recent years to allow for such unions. There had also been attempts to amend the State Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
While domestic partnerships were never offered statewide, the city of Philadelphia offers 'life partnerships' in the case of a "long-term committed relationship between two unmarried individuals of the same gender who are residents of the city; or one of whom is employed in the city, owns real property in the city, owns and operates a business in the city, or is a recipient of or has a vested interest in employee benefits from the City of Philadelphia." The city of Pittsburgh also provides domestic partnerships. County employees in Luzerne County are required to identify if they are in a domestic partnership, which is explicitly defined as being between people of the same gender.
Pennsylvania allows a single person to adopt without respect to sexual orientation.
Until 2002, Pennsylvania did not permit stepchild adoption by a person of the same sex as the first parent. A 6-0 ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania established the right of same-sex couples to stepchild adoptions. No statute prohibits a same-sex couple from adopting a child jointly.
Pennsylvania passed a hate crime law in 2002 that covered LGBT people, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck it down in 2008 on a technicality: legislators inserted the language into an unrelated bill on agricultural terrorism, changing that bill's purpose during the legislative process, which violates the Pennsylvania Constitution. Legislation was introduced in several sessions to reinstate the law, but it never made it out of committee.
In April 2021, the Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto that quoted “he would sign a city-wide hate crime ordinance - to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, that goes much further than that of state law”.
Further information: LGBT employment discrimination in the United States
There are statewide executive orders protecting LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination. In 1975, Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state in which an executive order was issued providing for discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation in state employment. In 2003, gender identity was added to this executive order and the order has been reissued by every governor since then. On April 7, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders, the first order prohibiting discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status and other factors and the second mandate banning state contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees.
For more than ten years, legislation that would protect LGBT people statewide from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has awaited action in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. On December 17, 2013, Governor Tom Corbett announced his support for such legislation with respect to sexual orientation after learning that federal law did not already provide such protection as he had previously thought. He said he anticipated bipartisan support for the legislation.
Many Pennsylvania municipalities and counties, including the five most populous cities, have enacted ordinances implementing such discrimination protections.
Since August 2018, discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity has been interpreted by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission as being banned under the category of sex of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. LGBT people who have been discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations can now file complaints with the Commission, which will investigate each complaint and can advise those responsible to stop a discriminatory practice, implement training, or award economic damages. Pennsylvania was the second state to achieve statewide LGBT protections this way, following Michigan in May 2018.
In May 2020, Pennsylvania became the only US jurisdiction to include both sexual orientation and gender identity in COVID-19 statistics and data collection.
During the 2020 Pennsylvania General Assembly session, a Omnibus Budget Appropriations Bill that passed and was signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, it contained a ban on both cannabis and LGBT pride flags from flying at the Pennsylvania General Assembly that was "secretly added in" - it was not known or printed until right after the bill was signed into law.
Sex reassignment surgery is legal in the state.
In August 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health changed requirements for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates. Sex reassignment surgery is no longer a requirement. Instead, transgender persons will just have to present a note from a physician stating that they have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. Additionally, children under 18 who wish to change their gender on their birth certificate will need their parents to make the request.
Since July 1, 2020, Pennsylvania has a third gender option (known as "X") available on driver's licenses and state IDs - but not birth certificates.
In November 2019 three legal ordinances related to gender identity were signed into law by the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney. These laws prohibit youth-serving organizations from discriminating against trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming youth; require every city-owned building to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom; and clarify that the city's Fair Practice Ordinance protects nonbinary and gender-fluid people against discrimination. These laws only apply within the City of Philadelphia.
A bill to ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBT minors in Pennsylvania was introduced in the General Assembly in April 2015. The bill had 20 sponsors, all of whom were Democrats, but it died without any legislative action.
On December 14, 2016, Pittsburgh became the first city in Pennsylvania to pass an ordinance that bans conversion therapy on minors. The ban was passed 9-0 and took effect on January 1, 2017. Philadelphia and Allentown followed suit in July 2017. Reading and Doylestown both enacted conversion therapy bans in December 2017.
State College passed a ban in February 2018, and Yardley did so the following month. Both Bellefonte and Bethlehem followed suit in July 2018.
Newtown Township, in Bucks County, unanimously voted to ban conversion therapy in November 2018.
A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 64% of Pennsylvania residents supported same-sex marriage, while 27% were opposed. 9% were undecided. Additionally, 69% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 23% were against. The PRRI also found that 62% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 30% supported such religiously-based refusals.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal|
|Equal age of consent|
|Anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation|
|Anti-discrimination laws for gender identity or expression|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve in the military|
|Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Transvestites allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Intersex people allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Third gender option|
|Access to Unisex Bathrooms|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Automatic parenthood on birth certificates for children of same-sex couples|
|LGBT anti-bullying law in schools and colleges|
|LGBT-inclusive sex education required to be taught in schools|
|Gay and trans panic defense banned|
|Homosexuality declassified as an illness|
|Conversion therapy on minors outlawed|
|Surrogacy arrangements legal for gay male couples|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|