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Opinion: The long road to full equality goes on

The following is an Opinion Editorial written by Ted Martin for the Bucks County Courier Times. The editorial appeared on July 15, 2014. Read the piece in the Bucks County Courier Times here.

The long road to full equality goes on

Growing up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, I can honestly say that I never thought I would see this day.

I was the perfect altar boy who couldn’t throw or catch a ball to save his life, and the boy who dreamed of escape. That’s not to say that I didn’t always hope for the best, but I didn’t set my expectations too high or dare to hope that I might someday share my life with someone who I loved. Today, I am finally recognized as a married man in my own home state.

It’s a good day when love wins.

It’s difficult to put into words how meaningful this is for so many people in Pennsylvania. You may not know this, but there are over 270,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the commonwealth. One sixth of us are couples raising children. I think I speak for all of us when I say that the court’s decision on marriage recognizes that our families and our loved ones matter to us just as much as anyone’s family — and that we deserve the same basic dignity, respect, and protection as any other Pennsylvania family.

While we celebrate today, we also know that there is plenty of work to do to be sure that all people are treated equally in Pennsylvania. The fact remains that even though we can get married, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can still legally be fired from their jobs, turned away from a business, or evicted from their homes just because of who they are. That’s why we are asking the state Legislature to pass Senate Bill/House Bill 300, Pennsylvania’s non-discrimination bill that updates the current law to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. This long-overdue legislation would update the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to make sure that all Pennsylvanians will be treated fairly at work, in housing, and in public accommodation.

Right now, SB/HB 300 has tremendous support in the commonwealth. The legislation is supported by the governor, co-sponsored by 96 representatives and 25 senators, and has consistently enjoyed around 70 percent support in Pennsylvania polls. In the business community, PNC Financial Services, Alcoa, American Eagle Outfitters, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Pittsburgh Technology Council, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Sellers Dorsey support the legislation. The Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce also support SB/HB 300.

With all of this support, we hope that our leaders in Harrisburg can see that it’s time to pass this commonsense law this year. We understand that what matters is not that we share the exact same beliefs with everyone in the commonwealth, but that we respect each other’s differences and treat everyone equally.

It’s a long road to full equality, but we have confidence that love will win in the end.

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