The Gettysburg Borough Council debated a proposed ordinance that would provide LGBT non-discrimination protections at its meeting on Monday November 25.
The discussion was in response to a presentation by Chad-Alan Carr, Founding Executive/Artistic Director of the Gettysburg Community Theater. Carr was joined by Jason Landau Goodman, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, who is knowledgeable about LGBT discrimination law.
The discussion was a follow-up to a presentation given by Carr and Goodman at the Sept 9 Borough Council meeting.
If adopted, the policy would likely include employment, housing, and public accommodation protections.
Violations of the policy would be enforced through mediation judged by a volunteer commission. If the complaint could not be settled locally it would go to a state commission.
Goodman said that goal was for the policy to involve “zero cost to the borough,” but council members noted there would be at least some costs, for instance for stenography if the mediation committee had to meet.
Goodman said protections for gender identity and sexual orientation are not guaranteed at the state level and having a local ordinance would be important so borough members “aren’t scrambling about what to do” should there be a case. “No one should experience discrimination for who they are,” said Goodman.
Goodman said 57 Pennsylvania communities have passed similar ordinances and that a policy would send a “lightning rod to Harrisburg that you take this seriously. You have people who are experiencing discrimination right now. These actions speak louder than any words.”
Councilmember Wesley Heyser questioned the wisdom of the proposal, focusing particularly on the term “perception” as part of a complaint. Heyser gave an example in which a Muslim bookstore opened in Gettysburg and did not want to employ someone who did not agree with the store’s belief system. If the employee claimed that he or she had been fired on the basis of perceived discrimination, would that be basis for a lawsuit? he asked.
Goodman answered that, yes if the store is open to the public, the suit would be considered, just as it would if the firing had been based on race or gender.
“Right now, in Gettysburg Borough, people can say I’m firing you because you’re gay. That’s doesn’t sit right. It’s wrong. It’s just like saying I’m firing you because you’re black,” said Carr.
“We want to make sure that everybody understands that this town is about love and acceptance and we’re all welcome,” said Carr.
“Certainly all persons should be treated fairly and equally. It’s totally unfortunate that at the state and federal level we don’t have more authority making that happen,” said Council President Susan Naugle.
“We have difficulty filling the boards and commissions we do have. There’s a cost to it,” said Naugle.