News & Politics

Fairness Pennsylvania looks to bring LGBTQ+ lobbying to Harrisburg

The newly formed statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights nonprofit organization hopes to raise the voices of LGBTQ+ in the state Capitol

Sarah Hammond

Sarah Hammond Provided

Pennsylvania has its first full-time lobbyist focused on LGBTQ+ issues. 

Fairness Pennsylvania – the first statewide civil right advocacy organization in several years to focus on LGBTQ+ issues – launched Monday in an effort to provide year-round public education and legislative efforts to advance LGBTQ+ equality in the Keystone State. 

The organization’s new state director, Sarah Hammond, joins the team after serving as the legislative director of the PA AFL-CIO. Hammond told City & State that Fairness Pennsylvania hopes to “carry the baton” of LGBTQ+ advocates who have worked in Harrisburg in years past. 

“We have so many groups that are doing such strong and important work and have been in some of our core areas across the state, but we also have areas where they are more broad and have a couple of gaps where there is not the same type of access to resources and representation,” Hammond told City & State. “That’s another area where Fairness PA is able to come in and help provide resources for testimony or for making sure that folks have support whenever things are coming up in individual communities.”

Hammond said the organization’s mission allows for a focused, fine-tuned effort at expanding education and creating a bipartisan group of lawmakers advocating for equal rights for all. With a central pillar being direct, full-time legislative advocacy and public education efforts, the organization is kicking off its work fighting for the passage of legislation, including the Fairness Act, which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the state. The Fairness Act passed in the Democrat-controlled state House in April 2023 but has yet to be considered in the state Senate, leading to Gov. Josh Shapiro calling for its passage. 

Fairness Pennsylvania will also work in connection with the Fairness Pennsylvania Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization that will serve as the public education arm of the advocacy group. 

“What the institute’s efforts look like are really emerging in ways to offer every person in every community the chance to learn a little bit more about the lived experiences of their LGBTQ+ neighbors, friends and family,” Hammond said. “We’re committed to providing certain educational resources and that comes not only to everyday Pennsylvanians who are outside, who are allies or who just don’t know very much about the LGBTQ+ community, but also (to) businesses who want to be able to support their LGBT constituents and communities a little bit better in the workplace.”

Fairness Pennsylvania is holding a press conference Monday afternoon with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to formally launch the new advocacy group. Lawmakers expected at the press conference include Democratic state Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Jess Benham, co-chairs of the LGBT Caucus, as well as Republican state Rep. Alec Ryncavage and Democratic state Sen. Lindsey Williams.