UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has pledged its support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians to live free from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Penn State is one of more than a dozen Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to sign on in support of the “Pennsylvania Values” campaign, which urges the Commonwealth to update the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of 1955 to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Working hard to see that all Pennsylvanians have access to education and opportunity is part of Penn State’s mission as a land-grant institution, and that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified Pennsylvanians,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity. “Just as we, as a University, already have policies to protect LGBTQ students and employees, we believe that all Pennsylvanians deserve protection under the law against discrimination for simply being who they are.”
As it is currently written, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act outlaws discrimination against 11 protected classes, including race and religion, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Pennsylvania Values campaign — a nonprofit organization created by the statewide LGBTQ youth advocacy group Pennsylvania Youth Congress — more than twice as many LGBTQ Pennsylvanians are unemployed when compared with non-LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. In addition, nearly 30 percent of transgender Pennsylvanians have experienced homelessness at some time in their lives. Pennsylvania Values also reports that 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.
“I’m pleased that Penn State is part of this important campaign designed to protect LGBT rights,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “Diversity and inclusion make us stronger as a commonwealth, and will encourage talented workers and innovative businesses to make their homes here.”
Penn State consistently is named one of the top LGBT-friendly universities in the country by the national nonprofit Campus Pride, which awards the University full marks in LGBTQ support and institutional commitment, student life, campus safety, and counseling and health services. The Penn State LGBTQA Student Resource Center plays a central role in supporting LGBTQ students, faculty and staff at Penn State, and provides a comprehensive range of education, information and advocacy services.