Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus
PA State Senator Steven Santarsiero and Kevin Antoine Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) officer at Bucks County Community College discussed the state and federal LGBTQ initiatives in an effort to bring light to these critical issues over zoom on Thursday, June 24.
There are two major legislation acts that are currently trying to be passed into law: The Equality Act and the John Lewis Voting Act.
The Equality Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federal funded programs, credit, and jury service. It also amends all the titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The John Lewis Voting Act, however, would strengthen and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Parts of this act were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
For example, it would restore the requirement that certain states preclear certain changes to their voting laws with the federal government, and it would end political gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the term used when politicians manipulate the boundaries of voting counties so as to favor one party or class.
Both of these bills are currently stalled in the U.S. Congress due to a filibuster. They aren’t expected to pass without support from Republicans.
According to Antoine, the U.S. Senate should get rid of filibusters. “[Filibusters were] first used against President Andrew Jackson,” Antoine explained. “In the modern era, it has been the main parliamentary procedure used to prevent the passage of civil rights law.”
Filibusters occur in congress when a prolonged speech or some other type of action obstructs the legislative process while not technically violating the rules and required procedures of Congress.
Sen. Santarsiero is one of these representatives fighting to get these acts past the filibuster.
Santarserio’s need to serve the public began after he witnessed the Sept. 11 attacks from window of his law office in Newark, New Jersey. He entered politics in 2003 after teaching for two years.
In his political career as a State Representative in Harrisburg, Santarserio worked on passing legislation dealing with education, environment protection, women’s health, and gun violence. He would refuse perks like per diems and state cars and refused to collect his pay during budget impasses.
Now, he is fighting to pass the Equality Act and John Lewis Voting Act.
“We should all be… actively fighting to make our Commonwealth an inclusive place for all residents. We must stand up for all Pennsylvanians and ensure that no person is discriminated against because of who they are, and who they love,” Santarserio said.
Though the legislation is still being debated, Antoine wanted the students at Bucks County Community College to know that they were still welcomed, supported, and valued.
“DEI is beyond race and gender,” he said. “It includes language spoke other than English, the first member of a family to attend college, and a person’s social economic status. It does not matter who you are or where you come from; if you enroll at Bucks, you’ll be welcomed here.”