Is Corbett serious about fighting for LGBT discrimination bill? (Probably not.)

corbettSomething weird happened last week.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Gov. Tom Corbett told the Inquirer he was “coming out in support” of state legislation which would end discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.

That legislation—House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300—was introduced to large fanfare back in May 2013, with both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. It was the first time an LGBT nondiscrimination bill had bipartisan support.

“[Members of both parties are] standing together to say that someone should not be fired form their job or denied a rental property just because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. We believe that today marks a significant step toward LGBT equality,” State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) noted when the bill was introduced.

After introduction, the governor was quiet on it. He didn’t say a word about nondiscrimination, although his public comments on gay marriage—referring to LGBT people as incestuous children—seemed to say it for him.

Meanwhile, much of the initial favor over the bill fell away when the reality set in: State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the state government committee in the House, had control over whether or not the bill would be introduced. And the anti-gay zealot said he’d have no part in it, and would block it from even coming up for a vote. The end.

Until now. Gov. Corbett is running for re-election in a historically hostile climate. Polls regularly show him with low support, even amongst his own party. Most recently, a Quinnipiac poll shows the governor with his worst approval rating ever: 32 percent approval, 53 percent disapproval, and losing to every top-tier gubernatorial candidate except John Hanger.

Those numbers reflect a recent survey by Public Policy Polling, which found Corbett in negative territory—even with his own party.

He was being pounded by all nine gubernatorial candidates running to take his job in the polls. Rumors were flying that another Republican, perhaps Pat Toomey, could take his place on the ballot. He passed the transportation bill, which raised taxes on wholesale gasoline and, thus, broke that promise he made about not raising taxes while governor. Democrats were getting psyched for 2014, Independents were fleeing, and Republicans had become uneasy.

Things could not get any worse for Corbett.

And as this was happening, the state was becoming more and more accepting of LGBT rights and partnerships. An entire 54 percent of Pennsylvanians said in a Franklin and Marshall poll that they support gay marriage—and nondiscrimination is supported by an even greater majority: 72 percent, according to a Republican-backed polling firm.

So when Corbett acknowledged his support of LGBT nondiscrimination last week, it seemed like one of those times the people pushed a pol in favor of progress—either through his seeing their own enthusiasm for the issue, or their lack of it for him. The move was lauded by LGBT advocates all over the state as huge news, and a huge win.

Rep. Brian Sims (D-Phila) was about as psyched as you’d expect him to be. “I have long believed that equality is not a one-party issue,” he said. “We continue to see our elected officials in Pennsylvania coming out on the right side of history, and Governor Corbett is no exception to this trend.”

I’d love to be that optimistic about the governor, too. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

Throughout the governor’s process of accidentally ridiculing the LGBT community over the last few months, his excuse has fallen into the “Sorry not sorry” category: That he’s a lawyer at heart, and thinks about theses things in legal terms, not human ones.

And if that were true (I think it honestly is), then you’d assume Corbett, the former Attorney General of Pennsylvania, would know where the state comes down on anti-discrimination. You’d assume.

But as he also told the Inquirer: “I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against … The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”

The federal government does not have antidiscrimination laws as it pertains to LGBT people in the private sector. It’s hard to believe Corbett, whose reign as Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor droned on for eight years, doesn’t know that. PhillyMag writer Joel Mathis covered that topic pretty well in a post I missed (while I was on vacation!).

It’s also hard to believe Corbett thinks his own support for the bill will sway the single person who needs to be swayed: State Rep. Metcalfe. After the news of Corbett’s position change, the Butler County Republican told the Allentown Morning Call: “The bills would allow men to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms if they decide on any given day that they feel like a woman.”

(That’s not true, by the way.)

But it doesn’t matter. Corbett knows his own state’s nondiscrimination laws, despite what he says; and he knows that Metcalfe won’t allow a vote on House Bill 300.

Announcing his support for the bill (while a worthwhile campaign tactic, perhaps, because Pennsylvanians are largely a socially accepting people) doesn’t mean shit unless the governor’s willing to bully some lawmakers, specifically Metcalfe — the one person who can bring HB 300 up for a vote — into making the legislation a priority!

Are these two about to get along on this issue? Don’t count on it. And don’t count on HB and SB 300 coming up for a vote during Corbett’s term, either.

Follow @RandyLoBasso on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Follow PW

Got a news tip?

If you see something interesting, odd, funny or, of course, illegal, let us know by emailing tips@philadelphiaweekly.com