Proposed Anti-Discrimination Policy Shelved in Spring City
A proposed LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination policy was recently shelved by City Council in Spring City Borough, because, according to the proposal’s author Erica Redahan Weiherer, it violates separation of church and state.
Weiherer—an ally who ran for City Council in 2013 and was endorsed by Equality PA—drafted the proposal based on one that was enacted in Downington earlier this year. It stipulates that protection against discrimination is to citizens of any “race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial or martial status, age, mental or physical disability.”
Weiherer submitted the proposal to Spring City Borough City Council in June, and then showed up to talk about it at the meeting in July. Before she could finish, however, she says she was “very rudely cut off and informed by the Council vice president that they would not discuss this topic at the present meeting because the matter was being referred to the Finance and Ordinance Committee.”
“I left that meeting dejected but thankfully [several people were] there to show their support for the LGBT community, so I at least knew that there were people who worked or lived in town who did care about making housing, educational and employment discrimination against LGBT people illegal.”
When the council minutes were released for that session in August, she found this response: “The ordinance as presented contains language that the committee feels violates the separation of church and state. Therefore, at this time the committee does not approve passing this proposal on to council.”
“I was flabbergasted that the Councilmen would try to use the ‘separation of church and state’ argument against legislation that was intended to do exactly that: separate people’s religious beliefs from the law, and prevent individuals from using religion to legally discriminate against LGBT people,” she says.
Council President Louis S. DiGiuseppe gave his reasoning to The Mercury News, saying he didn’t feel pressed to pass the bill because, “there are no current complaints relating to discrimination in the borough,” and that the “borough was operating well enough that no official ordinance was needed.”
He also pointed out that he feels confident that statewide anti-discrimination bills HB 300 and SB 300 would pass anyway, saving the “borough from paying exorbitant fees to pass ordinances like that. Our funding is very limited.”
If it would have passed, Spring City would have joined 33 other Pennsylvania municipalities that have enacted anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. With that in mind, Weiherer says she’s going to continue to get anti-discrimination passed in her town.
“As long as I reside in the borough, I will try to pursue this matter, unless, of course, the Pennsylvania legislature passes a statewide, more inclusive non-discrimination law that has protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” she told The Mercury News.
We’ve got our fingers crossed.