Lansdale, a borough in Montgomery with 16,000 residents, is poised to become the next municipality in Pennsylvania to enact an LGBT civil-rights ordinance.
So far, 49 municipalities in the state have enacted such ordinances, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown.
Borough officials had planned to discuss the ordinance at a council meeting July 3. The measure is expected to come up for final passage at the borough council’s Aug. 13 public meeting, said Mayor Garry W. Herbert Jr.
The proposed ordinance bans discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, commercial property and public accommodations within the borough. The protected categories include race, color, age, religious creed, ancestry, sex, national origin, handicap or use of guide or support animals, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
The ordinance also creates a five-member human-relations commission that will mediate antibias complaints filed with the borough manager. Complainants and respondents also have the option of utilizing an outside mediation agency.
During a June 29 informational meeting sponsored by the borough, some residents asked if “political affiliation” could be added to the protected categories. But after the meeting, Herbert told PGN that “political affiliation” won’t be added and the commission won’t accept political-affiliation complaints.
Herbert also noted that the ordinance doesn’t give commissioners authority to determine whether any type of unlawful discrimination occurred in the borough. If mediation isn’t successful, a complainant may file a civil action in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, where remedies could be obtained, he said.
Lansdale is located 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia, in the center of the North Penn Valley.
Herbert praised the proposed ordinance. “Lansdale is going through a resurgence,” he said. “There was a time when businesses moved out during the ’80s and ’90s and the borough was on the ropes. But we’re starting to see more businesses move in, more events in the borough and more interest in our community. We believe ordinances like this will make us more attractive to businesses and residents because they make us a more open and welcoming community.”
Richard R. Buttacavoli, president and vice chair of the Montgomery County LGBT Business Council, said in a statement that businesses are watching state legislatures and local councils and “investing in areas that foster diversity and inclusion, because that leads to a robust workforce and operational excellence. Municipal leaders in Montco realize this.”
LGBT protections are an investment in stronger communities and a stronger economy, Buttacavoli said. Human-rights ordinances “encourage LGBT entrepreneurs to open shop in these welcoming communities. Equally important, they protect employees and customers from discrimination.”
Anwar Muhammad, owner of Black Reserve Bookstore in Lansdale, said such a measure is long overdue.
“All citizens should be protected [from discrimination] and this ordinance tries to protect everybody. Why would anybody be against it?” Muhammad asked. “I’ve been black for 39 years. I know what it’s like to face discrimination. People are being injured on a daily basis. This ordinance should have been passed years ago. It’s sad that we need it, but we don’t live in an ideal world. It’s long overdue.”