Mazzoni Center: Court Ruling on SEPTA Doesn’t Add Up


We’ve been carefully following Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s decision late last Friday that claimed that SEPTA did not have to follow Philadelphia city ordinances which prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity. Yesterday afternoon, SEPTA issued their official statement on the matter, which claimed that:

“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.”

Today, I received some observations from Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Esq., Mazzoni Center’s Legal and Public Policy Director. He has some issues with SEPTA’s statement and the court’s decision.

Mr. Ude suggested one of the biggest problems is that “SEPTA’s assertion that the City initiated complaints is incorrect. The complaints were initiated by seven citizens complaining of discrimination by SEPTA – including our client, the late Charlene Moore Arcila Eck, who was trying to board a bus to get to work when she was confronted by a SEPTA bus driver who chose to gender-police her by telling her that she could not use her transpass because the bus driver disagreed with the gender sticker on that pass.”

Ude went on to also state the following:

“SEPTA’s claim about the burdens of compliance are belied by the fact that much larger businesses manage to comply with multiple laws on a daily basis, including large private companies. SEPTA is able to comply with local traffic laws that municipalities adopt to protect the safety of people in the City, and this should be no different.”

The original legal proceedings stemmed from complaints over SEPTA’s use of stickers to indicate a rider’s gender on bus passes. Since Friday’s ruling, there’s been concern from members of the LGBT community that SEPTA will reinstate this practice after the Commonwealth Court’s ruling; However, SEPTA claimed that they will “absolutely not” bring back the gendered labels.