September 18, 2022
Stephen Caruso of Spotlight PA and Ethan Edward Coston of Spotlight PA
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HARRISBURG — Over the past two years, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature has advanced bills that would ban LGBTQ curricula in schools and limit what teams transgender athletes can play on.
Without substantial Democratic support, neither piece of legislation has any chance of becoming law because Gov. Tom Wolf, the state’s most powerful Democrat, can veto them.
In Pennsylvania, the General Assembly can pass a bill with majority support, which at the moment requires only Republican votes. But the governor has the power to reject legislation, a decision that can only be overridden with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
During the November election in Pennsylvania, voters will choose a new governor from among five candidates, notably Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano. The two major party candidates have extremely different views on LGBTQ rights.
Below, we break down their positions on a number of key issues.
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Mastriano has not taken a public position on enshrining nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identiy into law. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment. In July, he was part of a unanimous vote to remove “acts of homosexuality” from the Pennsylvania crimes code.
In an August radio appearance, he attacked Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to discourage conversion therapy, saying Shapiro and Wolf want to “take over your kids and indoctrinate them.” Such therapy purports to make queer people straight, and has been rejected by the American Psychological Association.
In a 2001 thesis, he warned of a left-wing “Hitlerian Putsch” and that “aberrant sexual behavior in the ranks,” such as homosexuality, was part of an assault on the military designed to make way for “a larger cultural transformational agenda.”
Shapiro has said in public statements that he’d “put his full capital behind the effort” to enshrine housing, schooling, and employment protections for the LGTBQ community. Bills that would make nondiscrimination against LGBTQ people illegal have frequently stalled in the GOP-controlled legislature.
“We’re going to get it done when I’m governor because I give a damn,” Shapiro told Philly Gay News earlier this year.
He has also called for an expansion of the state’s hate crime laws to cover attacks on LGBTQ individuals, and he supports banning conversion therapy for minors.
Mastriano voted for a bill that would ban instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in early elementary classrooms. In a tweet, he likened LGBTQ-inclusive education to “grooming,” echoing homophobic right-wing rhetoric.
In August, he accused the state Department of Education of encouraging “Gender Theory Indoctrination,” a term used by right-wing lawmakers to attack schools that acknowledge and affirm students’ gender and pronouns or have any curricula related to gender identity.
Shapiro’s campaign spokesperson Manuel Bonder responded to questions about the attorney general’s stance on the instruction ban bill by saying the legislature needs to stop “wasting time and taxpayer dollars on these attempts to bully LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.”
Mastriano said in a 2018 radio interview that same-sex marriage should not be legal and that he favors “traditional marriage.”
“I’m not a hater for saying that,” he continued. “It’s been like that for 6,000 years.”
During that same interview, he said he does not believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt children.
Shapiro and other officials offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2013 when he was chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. The move defied what was then state law.
“I think it is a very big deal what happened in Montgomery County today,” he said at the time.
Mastriano voted for a bill that would ban transgender girls and women from participating on teams that correspond with their gender (legislation that Wolf vetoed in July) and has said he’d implement such a ban in his first 100 days in office through an executive order.
In his Republican nomination victory speech, he pledged to restrict transgender people’s access to restrooms, saying “on day one, you can only use the bathroom that your biology, anatomy says.”
Shapiro opposes the sports ban and wants to leave decisions about eligibility to the state’s interscholastic school sports association, as is currently the case, his campaign told the Delaware Valley Journal.
As attorney general, Shapiro filed a legal brief supporting a transgender student in Virginia who sued his school after it prevented him from using the bathroom corresponding to his gender.
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