For the second time in less than six months, just three House Republicans signed their names to gay rights legislation. And one of them is again Lehigh Valley Rep. Charlie Dent.
Dent added his name Thursday to a bill making it illegal to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation. The issue has languished in Congress since 1974.
While Dent's name does not guarantee the GOP-led House brings up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it is a hopeful sign for gay rights advocates that it's an issue that now can receive bipartisan support. In December 2012, Dent also lent his name to a bill to give same-sex couples equal immigration rights. And he supported the Violence Against Women Act with protections for gay, lesbian and transgender victims.
Gregory T. Angelo, executive director at the Log Cabin Republicans, cheered Dent's support and hoped he'd help lobby his other Republican peers. For Republicans like Dent "who aren't there yet on marriage equality, employment protections are a great way to show support," he said.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to move first on ENDA. A potential vote could be this summer, which coincidentally would be on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.
Adrian Shanker, the president of Equality Pennsylvania, said Dent continues to impress the LGBT community with his support for its issues. He encouraged others Republicans to look to Dent as a role model.
"They should look at their colleagues like Cong. Dent. He is a moderate but he is certainly a Republican, and his support for this doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Republican," Shanker said. "His support, while amazing, it’s not a radical piece of legislation, it’s commonsense legislation. I couldn’t be prouder of Cong. Dent."
Allentown, Bethlehem and Reading all have municipal laws protecting LGBT employees. So do major Lehigh Valley companies Air Products and PP&L. But there is no statewide Pennsylvania law or federal one.
Lehigh Valley's other congressman, Democrat Matt Cartwright, is also a cosponsor.