To help you understand your rights and protections, the City of Philadelphia is creating action guides on federal policies. The action guides include facts, ways you can help, and other resources.

Learn more about protections for the LGBTQ Community in the City of Philadelphia.

Know the facts

Information about the Philadelphia LGBTQ Community

More than 60,000 Philadelphia residents identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer. 60,000 Philadelphians are affected by the laws, issues, and protections affecting the LGBTQ community and benefit from the city’s efforts on their behalf.

Philadelphia is consistently recognized as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the country. Offering inclusive non-discrimination laws and municipal services, as well as law enforcement trained in cultural sensitivity and community engagement, the City of Philadelphia has a strong relationship with its LGBTQ community. The City is committed to protecting, serving, and supporting LGBTQ Philadelphians from every community in all areas of their lives.

Transgender individuals face violence, discrimination, and lack of access to essential resources at rates far exceeding other members of the community. Rolling back federal protections for individuals of trans* experience puts the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community more deeply in danger. Without laws and protections in place at the federal level, the transgender community remains our most vulnerable and underserved community.

The City of Philadelphia prohibits LGBTQ discrimination and provides protections to LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania currently does not have a statewide law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in terms of employment, housing, and public accommodations. In the absence of a statewide mandate, forty-one municipalities in PA have passed non-discrimination legislation like Philadelphia’s to protect LGBTQ people. Twenty-two states and Washington, DC, have also enacted policies to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

While LGBTQ Philadelphians overall benefit from a number of protections, LGBTQ people of color still face certain challenges. In January 2017, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations released a report on racism in the Gayborhood which addressed these issues and offered recommendations. The recommendations include trainings on implicit bias and the City’s Fair Practice Ordinance for bars and nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ rights and protections in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s local laws protect LGBTQ residents. In Philadelphia, it is illegal for employers, housing providers, businesses, providers of public accommodations and City services to discriminate against anyone because of their gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation. People can use any bathroom consistent with their gender identity and any single occupancy bathroom in a retail establishment must have gender neutral signage.

In 2014, the City of Philadelphia passed an ordinance to recognize attacks based on gender identity or sexual orientation as hate crimes. There are also specific guidelines on sentencing and fines for those found guilty of these crimes; the legislation calls for up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 for those found guilty. The state of Pennsylvania has no such law, despite various attempts to pass legislation to reorgonize hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fair Practices Ordinance (FPO) is the City’s local anti-discrimination law. The FPO was enacted in 1963 to prohibit discrimination in Philadelphia in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. Philadelphia’s law is strong and covers over 16 protected categories such as race, religion, national origin, age, sex, and disability. Significantly, Philadelphia has been protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation since 1982 and their gender identity since 2002.

The LGBT Equality Bill added new protections throughout the Philadelphia Code to protect LGBT people. Introduced by then-Councilman Jim Kenney in 2013, the bill reinforced protections especially for transgender and gender nonconforming people, such as equal access to public accommodations, gender-neutral language on certain City forms, gender-neutral bathrooms where possible, dressing in accordance with a person’s gender identity, the ability to request name and gender marker changes on pertinent records, and set up tax credits to encourage expansion of health benefits to trans* employees.

Single-occupancy bathrooms in Philadelphia must have gender-neutral signage indicating anyone of any gender identity may use them. The Gender Neutral Bathroom Law was passed in 2016 by City Council and is enforced by the City’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. The law covers all retail establishments in Philadelphia open to the general public for the sale of goods or services.

In Philadelphia, all schools must allow transgender students to use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. Facilities include both bathrooms and locker rooms, and the School District of Philadelphia has adopted a policy and will retain federal Title IX recommendations which protect transgender students in schools.

The Philadelphia School District and the City of Philadelphia are committed to protecting our trans* youth. Transgender students are more likely to face pervasive harassment in schools, and federal protections for our youth are disappearing. Nationwide, approximately 1 in 6 out trans* K-12 students have been forced to leave school due to discrimination. On February 22nd, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice that helps schools ensure equal access to educational programs for all students, including transgender students.

Nationwide, protection from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is still potentially at risk. On April 4th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Civil Rights Act applies to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, previous courts have also ruled that sexual orientation is not covered by the Civil Rights Act, meaning that this case could eventually see a decision by the Supreme Court.

The City of Philadelphia is dedicated to protecting its people from discrimination that occurs under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’ In recent years, there has been an influx of ‘Religious Freedom’ bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide, like HB2 in North Carolina, which allow discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in public places like stores, restaurants, and doctor’s offices.

The City of Philadelphia has its own Commission on Human Relations to review and investigate complaints of discrimination. Any cases of discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can be reported to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Resources (PCHR) at (215) 686-4670 or The PCHR also assists in resolving community tension after the occurrence of hate crimes or bias incidents. The PCHR has an anonymous hotline at (215) 686-2856. You can learn more about hate crimes here.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Directive 4.15 guides officers’ interactions with transgender and non-binary individuals to ensure respect and dignity. Directive 4.15 provides guidelines for appropriate police interactions with transgender and non-binary individuals, including in media accounts. This Directive is one of only a few of its kind across the nation and represents a significant step forward in the relationship between the police department and the transgender and non-binary community.


Share these quick facts and action guide with your networks. Education is critical to building bridges and support for LGBTQ rights. Whether it is over email, on social media, or at a community meeting, help us get the facts to every Philadelphia, whether a community member or ally.


Call your elected officials and tell them to amend the PA Human Relations Act to include explicit protections for discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and education.

Give back

Check out these local resources for LGBTQ Philadelphians. These organizations are also a great place to start if you’re interested in volunteering with, or donating to, an LGBTQ organization!