On September 1, the Shippensburg Borough Council voted 5-1 to adopt an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. Shippensburg, located 45 miles from Harrisburg in Franklin County, has become the 59th municipality in Pennsylvania and the second small town community to pass nondiscrimination for LGBT people in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2021.
Shippensburg has around 5,500 residents and is home to Shippensburg University, which has over 8,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
“We are extremely proud of Shippensburg Borough Council for taking clear action to protect LGBT individuals in their community from discrimination,” said Jason Landau Goodman, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, in a press release. “We have appreciated the opportunity to support them from day one in the effort to adopt this vital ordinance. It is long overdue for the state to take action. In the meantime, Shippensburg joins other communities in sending a lightning rod to Harrisburg to pass comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination protections, and paves the way for additional ordinances in small town Pennsylvania to be adopted.”
The Pennsylvania Youth Congress, who has been working directly with local leaders in several other rural communities, expects that Gettysburg will be the next central Pennsylvania community to adopt an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance.
Because there is no statewide nondiscrimination law for LGBT Pennsylvanians, those who live in rural areas are often left without the same safeguards as those in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both of which have nondiscrimination laws. Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast without statewide LGBT nondiscrimination protections.
Last year, Shippensburg resident Michael Bugbee found it extremely difficult to find housing when he told prospective landlords that he was gay and married to a man.
“We found a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Shippensburg,” Bugbee said in a Youtube video. “And the woman who was renting it seemed very very nice at first. And when I went and told her I was gay, she was like ‘oh, so you’re a faggot?’ and then she went on a tirade, a rant, talked about god and religion and Jesus, and we didn’t get that apartment.” Bugbee mentioned other landlords who did not want to rent to him because of his sexuality.
“Discrimination based on my sexual orientation almost left me without a place to live. This situation should not have legally been allowed to happen,” Bugbee said in a press release. Bugbee worked with the Pennsylvania Youth Congress to lobby the Borough Council to pass the nondiscrimination bill. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission also voiced their support, as did severa professors at Shippensburg University, though the university itself has not released a statement regarding the ordinance.
“It is the intention of this ordinance that all individuals be treated fairly and equally,” Borough Council President Bruce Hockersmith said during the meeting about the ordinance. “The saying ‘it takes all kinds’ tells us that regardless of the personality we should be able to accept everyone for who they are, and deal with everyone without discrimination.”
Council member Sandy Mailey, who also voted for the ordinance, echoed Hockersmith’s sentiment.
“I think we need to make a statement that we are indeed a welcoming community,” Mailey said. “A community where people can expect that citizens will indeed be kind to them.”