New LGBTQ+, hairstyle, and religion regulations approved in Pennsylvania


June 20, 2023

New LGBTQ+, hairstyle, and religion regulations approved in Pennsylvania 
Will become effective in August

Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) is pleased to announce new regulations, expanding the definitions of 'sex,' 'religious creed,' and 'race,' are now published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and will become effective within 60 days, on August 16. 

The PHRC enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination. These state laws include the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), which covers discrimination in employment, housing, commercial property, education, and public accommodations; and the Pennsylvania Fair Education Opportunities Act, which is specific to postsecondary education and secondary vocational and trade schools. Under the PHRA, Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, age (40 and over), sex, ancestry, national origin, religion, familial status (only in housing), disability, use, handling, or training of support/service animals for a disability, and retaliation.  

The new regulations clarify the definition for the protected class of 'sex' to include pregnancy status, childbirth status, breastfeeding status, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development. This definition has been used as a guideline since 2018. In 2022, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved proposed PHRC regulations; these were approved last month by the PA Office of Attorney General.  

"This is a great day for all Pennsylvanians," said M. Joel Bolstein. "All discrimination is wrong and the PHRC is pleased to see these regulations approved, guaranteeing Pennsylvanians the safety and security of knowing the Commonwealth will stand with them and protect them against acts of discrimination."   

The new regulations also clarify the definition for the protected class 'race' to include traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. This expanded definition is consistent with anti-discrimination laws in other states including New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and California.  

Finally, the regulations more clearly defined 'religious creed' to include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.  

"Too often we have heard of cases where people are discriminated against because of who they love, what religion they practice, what they look like, or how they wear their hair," said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. "Today, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is proud to say we will not tolerate that type of discrimination in this Commonwealth. Our team worked hard to put together these regulations and we are pleased they are approved. The PHRC is committed to ending discrimination and hate and these regulations are one more way we are doing it."  

The PHRC, the state's leading civil rights enforcement agency, urges anyone who has experienced acts of discrimination or hate to file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410.  Information and resources are also available at Victims of discrimination must file a complaint within 180 days of the alleged act.  


PHRC Media Contact Details

Amanda Brothman

Communications Director 771-856-5971
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Media