Pa. marriage equality turns 4, What's next for LGBTQ civil rights

Cherri Gregg
May 21, 2018 - 10:34 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- It's been four years since same sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania, but the effort to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community is still ongoing.

A 2014 US district court ruling cleared the way for same sex marriage in Pennsylvania and instantly became part of the momentum lead to the US Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality law of the land in 2015.

"People were saying - no, no, no, if you allow gay people to get married it's going to ruin our marriages," says Vic Wolczak is Legal Director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The group represented eleven same sex couples wanting to get married or have their marriage recognized in Pennsylvania. 

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking to overturn the Commonwealth’s ban on same sex marriage.

"I've never had a case that produced so much joy and happiness- there was literally dancing in the streets," he said. "Since then the ruling has simply expanded."

But there is much work to do.

In Pennsylvania, LGBTQ people do not have legislative protection against discrimination in housing, employment and accommodations.

While Philadelphia ordinances do provide protections through the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission, outside of the city, protection is spotty and based on the municipality. 

"There're plenty left to do to achieve justice and equality," says Wolczak, noting that the ACLU's latest case deals with transgender rights.

"Getting non-discrimination legislation at a state level is really a tremendous priority," says Amber Hikes, executive director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

In the past four years she notes that the focus has shifted from marriage equality to more equality and intersectionality issues within LGBTQ community.  LGBT youth disproportionately suffer from homelessness and Transgender individuals suffer from severe employment discrimination. In addition, racism in the city's "Gayborhood" was a major issue last year.

"We've seen an eye being turned to issues around more marginalized communities," says Hikes. "And for many- housing, employment-- those priorities rank higher than marriage equality did."

The city will host its first ever LGBT State of the Union at on May 29th at the Kimmel Center to discuss progress and need for continued change. 

You can find more details by clicking here.