The Downingtown Borough Council approved an ordinance March 19 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Council adopted the legislation in a 3-2 vote, with members Ann Feldman and Nick Winkler in opposition. Two citizens spoke during public comment and both were in favor of the bill.
Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell signed the legislation the following day.
Council vice president Alex Rakoff introduced the measure. He said this year, with a new member on Council, the bill stood its greatest chance of passing.
“It was just something I had been trying to do since I got on Council but didn’t have the landscape in favor of it for the first two years,” he said.
Maxwell said the lack of statewide protections prompted the measure.
“This is a need in Pennsylvania and we wanted to join municipalities across the commonwealth in pursuit of equality while the state remains silent,” he said.
Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin applauded Maxwell and Downingtown Council.
“Josh has been a champion for LGBT rights and was endorsed by Equality PA,” he said. “Every ordinance that passes — from Bristol to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia — shows our lawmakers in Harrisburg that Pennsylvanians are in favor of protecting all people from discrimination.”
Maxwell said although there have been no official reports of discrimination based on LGBT identity in Downingtown, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
“This will further make sure landlords, employers and event hosts know it is against the law to discriminate based on someone’s LGBT identity,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t be an issue moving forward.”
Rakoff said Downingtown and the 33 other municipalities are signaling to state lawmakers that Pennsylvanians are ready for this legislation at the state level.
“I think it sends a message that change starts to form from the ground-up and we want Harrisburg to do the right thing,” he said. “It is saying, ‘This is what we want and what we believe in.’ We are not sure they will make the move unless we get the ball moving on the local level.”
“There is widespread support for the legislation and hopefully leadership in Harrisburg acts accordingly,” Maxwell added. “It is something they shouldn’t be hesitant to pass and hopefully they will respond to the will of the voting public. Pennsylvania is an inclusive place.”