The GOP-led Chambersburg Borough Council recently repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance that offered protections to the LGBTQ community.
Some 22 states afford LGBTQ individuals protections from being denied housing, jobs, education, and access to public accommodations. Pennsylvania is not one of those states, making it the only state in the Northeast that does not offer such protections.
That means anti-discrimination laws are set at the local level in Pennsylvania. Out of 2,562 municipalities in the commonwealth, only 70 have LGBTQ inclusive laws. And Chambersburg has become the first to revoke theirs.
Last week, by a 7-3 Republican-majority vote, the Chambersburg Borough Council repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance citing a host of reasons, including redundancy in the ordinance and lack of muscle in its provisions.
The ordinance, enacted just four months ago by a then-Democratic majority, provided protections against discrimination toward gay, transgender, or genderqueer people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Previous council president and current council member Alice Elia said the ordinance was important to members of the LGBTQ community. She said when people go to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission with a complaint, it would give them a local law to point to that indicates discrimination is not allowed in that community.
“It made an important statement about who we are as a community,” Elia said. “It saddens me to think that we would be dialing back on that and telling people in our community that they are not worthy of equal protections.”
Julie Zaebst, senior policy advocate with the ACLU, says a local ordinance is another layer of protection.
“Should the legal interpretation change around discrimination on the basis of sex it guarantees that folks in municipalities with these explicit protections for LGBTQ and transgender people continue to be covered,” Zaebst said.