A lot of my friends who have moved out of state and try to convince me to go with them give me the same argument.
“Pennsylvania just isn’t progressive,” they tell me.
And for those on the West Coast and in places such as Colorado, I understand why they say that.
Sure, we don’t have legalized recreational marijuana, and our population skews a bit older, so Northeastern Pennsylvania doesn’t seem as youthful or glamorous as California.
But something happened last week that reminds me how I proud I am of my state.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced the formation of a 40-member LGBTQ commission, led by Executive Director Todd Snovel, who works as the assistant dean of student engagement and inclusion at Lebanon Valley College. Luzerne County resident Michele Kessler also serves on the commission.
“The creation of the commission on LGBTQ Affairs is one step of many we have taken to ensure obstacles are removed for anyone who is facing an unfair disadvantage based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” Wolf said in a press release.
It’s an amazing step in the right direction. This won’t solve all the problems in our state regarding LGBTQ rights, but the fact that the governor is acknowledging that more needs to be done is not only important, but also progressive.
Pennsylvania’s commission is the first of its kind in the entire country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Through this, our state is paving the way for LGBTQ rights, and hopefully other states will follow suit. According to the executive order, the commission will:
• Advise Wolf on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations that impact LGBTQ individuals and communities;
• Develop, review and recommend to the governor policies in the areas of health and human services, housing, education, employment, business formation and other relevant areas which impact LGBTQ individuals and communities;
• Provide appropriate assistance and advice to the Departments of General Services and Community and Economic Development, and work with the Bureau of Workforce Planning, Development, and Equal Employment Opportunity, within the Office of Human Resources and Management, in the Governor’s Office of Administration, to strengthen the enforcement of the state’s anti-discriminatory hiring, retention and promotion policies;
• Serve as a liaison to federal, state and local agencies to ensure that programs affecting LGBTQ individuals and communities are effectively utilized and promoted;
• Serve as a resource for community groups and provide forums for developing strategies and programs that will expand and enhance the civic, social, educational, cultural and economic status of LGBTQ individuals and communities;
• Identify programs, scholarships, mentoring programs, sources of funding or other resources for the benefit and advancement of LGBTQ individuals and communities;
• Promote the cultural arts of LGBTQ communities throughout the state; and
• Communicate activities and initiatives of state government that impact or otherwise may affect LGBTQ communities in the state.
As a young woman who calls this state home, I am proud of Wolf for creating this commission. As someone with family and friends in the LGBTQ community, I hope this commission truly accomplishes what it has set out to do, and I hope it sparks a fire in other states to do the same.
Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds