Penn State pledges support for nondiscrimination

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — President Eric Barron signed a pledge Aug. 31, demonstrating Penn State's commitment to nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and support for making the state more economically competitive by updating its nondiscrimination law.

The endorsement made Penn State the first university in Pennsylvania to sign the “Pennsylvania Competes” pledge, which urges the state to pass legislation updating the Human Resources Act. Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not covered under Pennsylvania’s current nondiscrimination law, which means all citizens are not protected from discrimination in the housing or job markets.

“At Penn State, we are looking to create opportunities for our students and help grow the economy of Pennsylvania. We believe that a strong nondiscrimination policy will help the Commonwealth continue to attract and retain innovative and talented workers and foster entrepreneurship and development,” Barron said. “While Penn State, like many other businesses and institutions, already has a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, we think that updating the policy statewide is in the best interests of all Pennsylvanians.”

According to the nonprofit Pennsylvania Competes, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including all 23 located in Pennsylvania, have sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression nondiscrimination policies.

“Penn State supports the employment protection of all of our employees. We want to be out front and show our commitment to being an equal opportunity employer that doesn’t discriminate, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” said Susan Basso, vice president for human resources.

Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity, said the University wanted to publicly endorse the principles of the pledge and show support for the LGBT community.

“We hope the pledge signifies our sincere support on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression throughout the University,” he said.

Penn State, he noted, was recently named one of the top 25 LGBTQ-friendly schools in the country by Campus Pride, a national nonprofit.

Barron was joined by members of the Penn State community, including representatives of Penn State’s Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity (CLGBTE), along with representatives from Pennsylvania Competes during the signing. Penn State Hershey officials have also signed the Pennsylvania Competes pledge.

“I am thrilled that President Barron recognizes the importance of supporting the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which protects all Pennsylvanians from discrimination based on their sexual orientation,” said Amy Dupain Vashaw, chair of the CLGBTE.

“Penn State has been a leader in its own practices to promote fairness and equity for all its constituents, and taking a public stand by signing on to the Pennsylvania Competes pledge means a lot,” Vashaw said. “Penn State has just recently once again been recognized as one of the most LGBT-friendly campuses in the nation, and having an administration willing to stand up to discrimination is one reason for that. I look forward to a day, in the near future, when all Pennsylvanians can be open about who they are and who they love without fear of discrimination.”

Last Updated May 10, 2016