Mayor signs bill combatting racism, discrimination

Mayor Jim Kenney performed a ceremonial signing for a bill Thursday that will strengthen penalties for local businesses that discriminate. This bill amends the Fair Practices Ordinance by giving the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations authority to issue cease-and-desist orders to businesses violating the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.

Councilman Derek S. Green introduced the bill in November after attending a fall PCHR hearing at which members of the community addressed issues of racism in the Gayborhood. Additionally, he told PGN in April that he also learned by “reading various news accounts and talking to other friends and contacts in the LGBTQ community about this issue.”

Green said it was “an honor” to be in attendance at the bill signing in City Hall’s Reception Room and thanked the activists “who kept this issue at the forefront — from the Black & Brown Workers Collective to Ernest Owens.

“Sometimes we need an additional push to keep these issues on the forefront and they have done that,” Green said. “They will continue to do that.”

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau clarified during the signing that the commission would only “use this authority under egregious circumstances.”

“This remedy is squarely in line with the enforcement mechanisms already invested by the commission and the Fair Practices Ordinance,” Landau said.

City Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes thanked Green for his leadership on this issue.

“At its best, this is what effective government looks like: identifying the issue that’s affecting their constituents, listening to their experiences and developing a policy to protect and improving the quality of their lives moving forward,” Hikes said. “This policy says to its constituencies, ‘We see you, we hear you’ and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Hikes noted how the Office of LGBT Affairs recently raised a new rainbow flag featuring black and brown stripes to symbolize the LGBT community’s racial diversity. She said she “couldn’t be prouder of the city and its residents for pioneering long-overdue conversation and elevating the voices and experiences of our most marginalized community members.”

“That flag was a promise from the city of substantive changes to come and this bill is one of those substantive changes,” Hikes said. “So let me be clear from this point forward: Business that violate this ordinance will not pass under the radar as they continue unlawful business practices.”

Kenney added that the current presidential administration is “empowering people to hate.”

“We will come out of that tunnel and back into the light and hopefully we will be a better country for it,” Kenney said before vacating the podium to sign the bill.

In addition to Green’s bill, Kenney signed Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s bill, “Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism.” Johnson introduced this bill in May to increase penalties for vandalism of individual headstones and grave markers.