It didn't take long for the uproar over religious-freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas to reverberate in Pennsylvania.

Democrats, including Gov. Wolf, grabbed onto the controversy this week to bolster their bid for a state ban on discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

The proposal would make it illegal for businesses to fire workers or deny customers because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. It would also offer protections beyond antidiscrimination measures already passed by more than 30 municipalities, including Philadelphia, Haverford, Abington, and New Hope.

"There are places in this state where you can still discriminate," one of its supporters, State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), said Thursday. "That's a disgrace and an anachronism."

A similar proposal has failed to win support five times in Harrisburg, and at least some Republicans are girding for another fight. One suggested such a law could be interpreted to allow men in gender transition to use ladies' rooms along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Wolf has signaled his support for a ban, as did his predecessor, Tom Corbett. New Jersey already has one. "What happened in Indiana is wrong," Wolf's office said in a statement.

What happened in Indiana has sparked a national conversation on LGBT discrimination. The governor signed into law a measure that added greater legal protection to claims of religious infringement.

The Indiana legislation explicitly extended protections to businesses, raising concern that a company that refused to serve a customer or fired an employee would have greater protection in court.

Facing a backlash, Indiana lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday revised the law, saying it could not be used to specifically discriminate against the LGBT community.

Under a similar spotlight, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved an amended version of a religious-freedom bill there that was restricted to claims involving the government.

Pennsylvania is one of 20 states that had religious-freedom laws. So does the federal government. But most are restricted to claims involving a government's infringing upon someone's religious expression.

For instance, Philadelphia Police Officer Kimberlie Webb invoked the federal statute when she sued the department in 2005, claiming its ban on head scarves infringed upon her religious liberty. She lost in court, with a federal judge ruling that it would damage the department's appearance of "religious neutrality."

Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington-based advocacy group, said religious-freedom laws don't legalize discrimination. Rather, they allow courts to balance the interests of various parties.

"I think the courts have generally done a very good job over the last few years," she said. "It's not a rule that says religious people always win. It says they get their day in court."

David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University, said the debate over religious-freedom laws was a distraction.

"What Pennsylvania is missing - and Indiana as well - are statewide protections," he said. "You can get married on a Sunday in Pennsylvania and then get fired on Monday for putting a picture of your husband on your desk. And that has nothing to do with religion."

Passing a broader antidiscrimination law will likely require some deft political maneuvering - despite polls showing that most Pennsylvanians support it.

One obstacle is likely to be State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), chair of the GOP-controlled House's State Government Committee, which is where State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) has seen his bill die in past sessions.

Metcalfe told The Inquirer on Thursday that the bill never got past his committee because it lacked the votes. He also expressed concerns over language regarding "gender identity" in previous versions.

"Bruce Jenner would be able to stop and use the ladies' room on the Pennsylvania Turnpike," he said, referring to reports that the Olympian was in the process of gender transition. "You create some serious safety and privacy issues for the citizens of our state and especially for the women of our state."

Metcalfe noted that Democrats could not muster enough support for a vote on the proposal even when they controlled the House. "They had hearings on it, but they never moved the bill," he said.

Frankel said he may try to work with House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) to send the bill to another committee. Frankel - and other observers in Harrisburg - believes enough votes exist among legislators to pass the measure. Turzai's office did not respond to inquiries Thursday.

G. Terry Madonna, the Franklin and Marshall College political scientist and pollster, noted one poll showed 72 percent of Pennsylvanians support a statewide ban on LGBT discrimination. He thinks Republicans would support it if its backers could push the measure to a vote.

"Whether this will come and go and pass us by, I don't know," Madonna said. "They have a lot to deal with in Harrisburg, including confirmations and pensions and the budget."

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