Who said one person could not make a difference?
I have been following the journey of University of Penn senior Jason Goodman. Goodman, a resident of Lower Merion and founder of ‘Equality Lower Merion’ has spent the last year advocating for an anti-discrimination law in Lower Merion to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Last night, the Board of Commissioners of Lower Merion Township made history. They voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination. Passing this ordinance, they became the 18th municipality in Pennsylvania to enact similar legislation.
Currently, the Pennsylvania state law bans discrimination for list of protected classes, including race, ethnicity, religion, age, class, gender and others, but does not include any protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Lower Merion will add members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community to the protected class with this ordinance.
Prior to the passing of the anti-discrimination ordinance, members of the LBGT communities could be refused service at restaurants, fired from jobs or evicted from their homes, simply based on their sexual orientation and would have no legal recourse under state or federal law. Thanks in no small part to Goodman’s efforts that will no longer be the case in Lower Merion Township with the passage of this ordinance.
In addition to the ordinance, Lower Merion Commissioners created a 7-member Human Relations Commission that will receive and investigate complaints and has the authority to impose penalties on violators, including fines up to $10,000.
I was curious which other Pennsylvania municipalities had passed a similar ordinance. A friend of mine, Joanne Tosti-Vasey is president of PA NOW (National Organization for Women) was able to provide me with the following list of municipalities with similar anti-discrimination laws on the books. According to Joanne, Lancaster had a similar ordinance but apparently the law has been rescinded and the office will be completely shut down by the end of next week. Interesting. I think that Philadelphia may have been the first municipality in the state to pass this type of legislation and that was in the 1980.
- Allegheny Co.
- New Hope
- State College
- West Chester
So Community Matters readers, what do you think? Do you think that we should follow our neighbor’s lead and enact a similar anti-discrimination ordinance? Is this an idea that our Board of Supervisors should consider for 2011?