Pennsylvania has instituted new regulations that offer a clearer understanding of the terms “sex,” “religious creed,” and “race,” according to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). This move aims to ensure broader protection against discrimination in various sectors.
The updates to the definition of “sex” now encompass pregnancy status, childbirth status, breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development.
This development comes after the regulations were green-lighted by the PA Office of Attorney General and had been made public in the Pennsylvania Bulletin in June 2023. Prior to that, they received approval from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission in 2022.
The Chair of the PHRC, M. Joel Bolstein, expressed pride in the effort, emphasizing that these regulations assert the state’s stance against discrimination. The message is clear: Pennsylvania champions inclusivity and stands against any form of prejudice.
Further, the regulations define “race” to encompass traits related to race, notably hair texture and protective hairstyles. This inclusion is particularly significant in the context of discussions about discrimination against traditionally Black hairstyles, a topic highlighted by Democratic State Representative La’Tasha D. Mayes. She pointed out the ongoing discrimination faced, especially by Black women and girls, due to their hair, which has often hindered their economic opportunities.
Religious discrimination also sees comprehensive amendments with the term “religious creed” now including all aspects of religious observance, practice, and belief.
Chad Dion Lassiter, the Executive Director of PHRC, reiterated the commission’s commitment to protect all citizens from any discrimination. He mentioned how frequently people face prejudice based on their appearance, religious beliefs, or whom they love. The updated regulations, he emphasized, are a testament to the state’s dedication to combat such biases.
As of August 16, 2023, these regulations will offer increased protection against discrimination in sectors like employment, education, public accommodations, and housing. This move impacts a broad spectrum of establishments, from landlords and educational institutions to businesses with more than four employees.
These efforts are in line with the larger movement to prevent discrimination, epitomized by the CROWN Act, which cleared the Pennsylvania House of Representatives earlier in July. This Act further emphasizes the state’s dedication to curbing discrimination, ensuring a fairer environment for all its residents.