HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf on Thursday signed a pair of executive orders expanding protections against discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.
In signing the orders, which will apply not just to state agencies but also to state contractors, the Democratic governor urged the Republican-controlled legislature to pass long-stalled legislation that would expand employment and housing protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals across the state under Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act.
"This is not the end of the game," said Wolf, flanked by several dozen advocates for equality under state laws.
The move comes after North Carolina's governor and legislature took a widely watched step in the opposite direction. Its law barring municipalities from extending discrimination protections to gay, lesbian, or transgender people has stirred outrage among advocates and led some major employers to say they were reconsidering plans to continue doing business or expand in the state.
In signing the orders in Harrisburg, Wolf said he wanted "to show the world that Pennsylvania is a welcome place for everyone."
His first executive order replaces and reinforces those of previous administrations, including that of Gov. Ed Rendell, directing that state agencies cannot discriminate against employees or applicants for jobs on the basis of race, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation. It takes it a step further as well, requiring audits of the state's hiring and job retention practices.
The second executive order applies to what the Wolf administration called "tens of thousands" of contracts and grants, including those awarded to firms for consulting and construction work.
The governor said he was troubled that the legislature has for years sidelined bills to expand employment and housing protections to all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender residents.
"Pennsylvania needs to go on record to proclaim that all people . . . are treated equally under the law," he said.
Legislation to add language to state antidiscrimination laws to include the LGBT community has not gained any traction in the Capitol, especially as Republicans have bolstered their numbers in both chambers and conservatives increased their influence.
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said his caucus would review the governor's executive orders and the proposed bills, but stopped short of making any commitment to giving the bills a public airing.