SEPTA Issues Full Statement on Recent Court Proceedings


A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently ruled that SEPTA was not subject to a Philadelphia ordinance banning discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity. This morning, we reported that SEPTA’s Director of Media Relations claimed that the legal proceedings “had nothing to do with discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity, only whether the Philadelphia had jurisdiction over SEPTA.”

Just now, we received a full statement from SEPTA regarding the proceedings. You can read it below:

“Between July 2007 and April 2009, the City of Philadelphia (“City”) initiated seven separate complaints against SEPTA for alleged discrimination against employees and customers in violation of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“FPO”). SEPTA moved to dismiss all seven complaints contending that the City lacked jurisdiction over SEPTA because of SEPTA’s status as a Commonwealth Agency and its sovereign immunity protections. On August 7, 2015, the Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of SEPTA finding that the Pennsylvania legislature did not intend for the FPO to apply to SEPTA.

The case concerned one governmental entity’s authority over another based upon the statutory scheme overlaying both of those governmental entities. The central question of the case was whether that statutory scheme authorized the City to apply the FPO to SEPTA. SEPTA’s motion had nothing to do with protections afforded or not to the LGBTQ community.

SEPTA could not simply accede to the City’s FPO because SEPTA believed the legislature ensured that Commonwealth agencies, like SEPTA, should not be subjected to the myriad of regulations any municipality may choose to impose. Thus, if SEPTA did not challenge the City’s authority under the FPO, then the City and the other over 200 municipalities could upset the legislative balance by imposing other requirements on how SEPTA achieves it public mission. SEPTA desired only to maintain the balance of authority between municipalities, like the City, and SEPTA established by the Pennsylvania legislature.

SEPTA believes that the City overstepped those bounds by attempting to apply the FPO to SEPTA. The Court’s opinion rests squarely on these concerns of following the balance established by the legislature and enabling SEPTA to effectively deliver on its public transportation mission.”