A very large bipartisan group of Pennsylvania lawmakers is backing a pair of bills aimed at discriminatory practices.

Politicians, advocates and others gathered Tuesday in Harrisburg to announce reintroduction of the House and Senate measures that would bar housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.   

The bills will end the last vestige of legal discrimination in Pennsylvania, "discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression," said Rep. Dan Frankel, a Pittsburgh-area Democrat.

"I'm pleased to announce that, for the first time, these bills will be introduced at the same time with prime sponsors from both parties,"  he said.

Statewide supported

One-hundred members of the General Assembly, a record number that represents all corners of the state, sponsored the bills, Frankel said. 

The widespread support stems from the fact that ending discrimination based on sexual orientation is not a partisan issue, according to Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester.

"All Pennsylvania citizens deserve to be treated with dignity, and no Pennsylvanian should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation," Ross said. "It's really that simple. I think the public at large gets that, increasingly so as time has gone on."

Rep. Sims reaction

Stepping up to the microphone, state Rep. Brian Sims admitted he was a lot more emotional than he'd expected.

Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia, is the first openly gay politician elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature.

"On days like today — with the type of equality advocates, activists and warriors that I am joined by on stage — we show once again that the American spirit, the American dream and, most importantly, the American values demand that we as a commonwealth finally evolve," he said.

A recent Susquehanna Polling and Research survey shows more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support the bills.