CALLING IT a "major step in the right direction" for the gay community, state Rep. Brian Sims applauded the governor yesterday for siding with his anti-discrimination bill, which has been floundering in a state House committee for nearly three years.

In a move considered atypical of his administration, Gov. Corbett has publicly backed two pieces of legislation that would put an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

"I think one of the things we're starting to realize . . . is that support for LGBT civil rights is clearly not just a liberal issue," said Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, who was joined by City Councilman Jim Kenney in City Hall yesterday. "Support for LGBT issues is not mutually exclusive from being a conservative Republican, and I think that's really important for the advancement of these issues in the Pennsylvania House."

The legislation would amend the 1955 Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to allow for special protections for members of the LGBT community. In an interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, Corbett said he thought such safeguards were already covered under federal law.

"The time has well come and gone for us to be fair to all people, regardless of who they are or how they live," Kenney said. "I know people who have moved into New Jersey so they can get married there, so why can't we get to this point?"

But murmurs have surfaced in several online platforms that suggest Corbett is simply posturing as a means of rescuing a failing re-election campaign, but even the so-called dean of gay journalism doesn't think so.

"This is not something that the governor has come to overnight. Anybody who thinks it's political should realize that it might mean he's challenging his own party," said Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News and the first lobbyist to stump for LGBT causes in Harrisburg.

"When we met in the governor's residence in October, we discussed, at our meeting, one item - how do we pass nondiscrimination? He was absolutely amazed that it was not done."

Sims said that now the challenge lies with getting other Republicans on board.

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