The Town Council of Chambersburg, a 22,000-person borough about 50 miles southwest of Harrisburg, voted to adopt an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance on September 20. The municipality is among at least 70 in the state of Pennsylvania to approve nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing and public accommodations. Pennsylvania remains the only state in the region that does not have statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.
“Once again, small town communities in our commonwealth are stepping up to meet the needs of their residents,” said Preston Heldibridle, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. “We are very proud of Chambersburg Town Council for acting to protect LGBTQ individuals in their community from discrimination and have appreciated the opportunity to provide guidance on this undertaking throughout the exploratory process. It is beyond time for the General Assembly to follow suit and provide these basic, essential protections for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.”
Chambersburg residents and civic leaders worked with the Pennsylvania Youth Congress on the ordinance, which passed with a 7-3 vote in Town Council.
Chambersburg resident and parent Melissa Mattson told the Council during the nearly four hours of public comment, “I am in support of this ordinance because discrimination does happen. When my son was born seven years ago, we had trouble finding a daycare center who would take him because he had two moms. It was an issue for a lot of daycare centers around here… this will give me peace of mind that I have someplace to go, if need be.”
Residents Bob Dixon and Beth Schupp-George also spoke during the public comment session. Dixon said “If we respect and love everyone, then I think we owe it to ourselves and our children to make a clear stance that we will not accept discrimination,” while Schupp-George said that “Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t have a state-wide nondiscrimination law… neighboring towns have already done this.”
Because of local ordinances such as Chambersberg’s, roughly one-third of Pennsylvania residents live in areas where LGBTQ people are protected against discrimination in housing, employment and public accomodations. In the rest of the state, however, LGBTQ residents are still at risk for such discrimination.
Statewide nondiscrimination legislation has been introduced in Harrisburg for decades, including this session. Republicans have majorities in both the state house and senate. The most recent bill, also called the Fairness Act, was reintroduced in June by state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny). However, Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), who leads the committee on state government where the Fairness Act has been referred, has refused to allow the bill to come up for debate or a vote.The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County granted federal employment protections to LGBTQ people in June 2020, but no such federal protections exist regarding housing or public accommodations.