Did You Know?
The Borough Council of Chambersburg recently updated (3.8.21) its non-discrimination policies to extend protections to all individuals, including those who identify as LGBTQ+. The policy updates extend to the operations of the organization and protect employees, volunteers, elected officials and those who do business with the borough, i.e. those who represent the Borough in some official capacity. Further, customers who use the Borough utilities are also included in the non-discrimination policy. Additionally, updates were made to the Borough’s sexual harassment policy, a process was created to track non-discrimination complaints and a commitment to ongoing diversity and inclusion training was expressed by staff. While these are significant steps toward protecting all individuals in the Borough, they fall short of doing just that. Members of the public asked staff if the Borough would consider creating a non-discrimination ordinance i.e. a law, that could protect all citizens and include a process by which complaints of discrimination could be mediated at the local level. Borough staff expressed that they believe a process exists already with the PA Human Relations Commission and are not convinced that a local non-discrimination law would be enforceable and therefore do not recommend an ordinance. However, advocates of non-discrimination ordinances disagree. This requires more thoughtful consideration and analysis by Borough Council.
69 municipalities across the commonwealth have adopted LGBTQ+ inclusive non-discrimination ordinances that grant explicit protections to LGBTQ+ individuals with regards to employment, housing and public accommodations. Local municipalities have adopted their own laws because the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act does not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity. The Pennsylvania General Assembly would have to amend this law to extend protections.
In January 2018, the Borough of Chambersburg passed a resolution of support to encourage the PA General Assembly to enact Senate Bill 613, which sought to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to extend protections to the LGBTQ+ community. To date, the PA General Assembly has not moved on the matter.
In August of 2018, the PA Human Relations Commission released new guidance with an expanded definition of “sex” as it applies to the states discrimination laws to be inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, gender transition, and transgender identity. This change allows Pennsylvanians to file a complaint with the commission if they believe they have experienced education, employment, housing or public accommodation discrimination because they’re LGBTQ. To date, the new guidance has not been tested. Since the PA Human Relations Commission expanded its definition of “sex”, at least 15 municipalities across the commonwealth have adopted LGBTQ+ inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, including Shippensburg Borough and Gettysburg Borough.
Advancing the Conversation
There are many different reasons why a local community would want to adopt a law that explicitly protects all of its citizens, such as:
Demonstrating a local commitment to fairness and equity, showing that the Borough of Chambersburg is welcoming and accepting of all people;
Sending a message to state representatives who serve us in the PA legislature that there is support for an amendment to the PA Human Relations Act;
Providing a local, expedient mechanism to address complaints of discrimination which otherwise might get backlogged or lost in a bureaucratic, state-run system;
Supporting economic development by attracting businesses and a workforce that support diversity, equity and inclusion.
Ask Borough Council to Form an Exploratory Committee
To advance the conversation, it is vital that local citizens ask the Borough Council to add the topic of a non-discrimination ordinance to their agenda and to request that a committee be formed to explore the issue in a transparent and thoughtful way that includes citizen participation. Please consider sending one or more emails by as described below.
Listed below are Borough Council members. Please email each of them.
If you live* in the Borough, it’s recommended that you send an email to your respective Borough Council members (there are two for each ward) and cc all the other council members.
If you work or do business in the Borough, it is recommended that you send an email to all the Council members.
Click here for sample letters. Please modify it and/or create a letter based on your personal and professional views and experiences and why you believe a non-discrimination ordinance should be explored further by the Borough Council.
*Who are your council members? See what ward you live in here:
Another way to remember what ward you live in is what day of the week your trash is picked up. If your trash is picked up on Monday, then you live in the first ward, and so on.