Bypassing the PA General Assembly, an unelected Commission is changing the way it views the word “sex” in Pennsylvania’s civil rights law, raising serious concerns for religious freedom and personal privacy.

PA Human Relations Commission (PHRC), a group of nine unelected members, is tasked with enforcing state law – passed in 1955 – that deals with sex discrimination in employment, housing, education, commercial property and public accommodations. Since its inception, the term “sex” has always been defined in practice to mean “male” and “female.”

Yet we’re seeing a continued push to redefine the term “sex,” which can have adverse effects on many. Adding the special statuses of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression” is what LGBT advocates and some in our state legislature having been attempting to add to discrimination law for more than a decade.

These types of changes to state law have been used to attack religious freedom by generating numerous lawsuits against people living out their sincerely-held beliefs. They also impact privacy rights by opening up restrooms, locker rooms and showers to members of the opposite biological sex.

Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve been able to stop the continued push for this type of alarming change added into state law by the legislature, which came close to passage by the State Senate in the 2015-2016 legislative session. Thanks to an outpouring of citizens who got involved at that time in the campaign to “Defend My Privacy,” including the largest rally in Harrisburg that session, we were able to stop that dangerous bill in its tracks.

The nine unelected members of the PA Human Relations Commission

Then, in May 2017, the PHRC revealed a plan to runaround the legislature by proposing to unilaterally redefine the term “sex” to include these special classes; bypassing the legitimate way of changing laws – through the legislative process and with the consent of the governed. They unveiled this proposal by asking for public comment to be submitted by the end of that month. We then took action, activating our resources and with a great response from people like you across Pennsylvania. Over half of the total comments were against the proposal and the vast majority of those comments against were generated through you; over 4,000 comments were sent to the Commission using our Action Alert.

After a long delay by the commission and despite thousands of comments against this proposal, these nine unelected commission members moved ahead with implementing their alarming plan.

Now, according to the PHRC, the term “sex” may:

“refer to sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender transition, gender identity, and/or gender expression depending on the individual facts of the case.”

This blatant disregard for the legislative process brings much concern:

  • In Colorado, their Human Relations Commission is the one behind targeting cake artist Jack Phillips again in claiming he violated the law by choosing not to participate in an event contrary to his beliefs. (Jack Phillips is the featured guest at our Friends of the Family banquet on Saturday, October 20 in Hershey, PA.)
  • This redefined guidance covers discrimination based on sex in the context of employment, housing, education, commercial property and public accommodation (any facility open to the public, which include swimming pools, libraries, kindergartens and schools.)
  • The Commission stated they will use “any and all legal theories available depending on the facts of the individual case.” That doesn’t give much clarity – which is why religious freedom and privacy rights may be in jeopardy.

Our staff at the PA Family Institute will be monitoring the situation closely to protect our schools, our liberty and our privacy. We are prepared to push back in order to protect religious freedom and privacy rights. Please be in touch with us if you have any concerns related to your organization or ministry regarding the commission’s change in policy and we can discuss these issues further.