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Chambersburg Borough Council votes to repeal LGBTQ anti-discrimination law

This ordinance was enacted in Oct. 2021 by a then-Democratic majority. It extended protections to LGBTQ people in the workplace, in public, and in housing.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — In a 7-3 vote, the Chambersburg Borough Council voted on Jan. 24 to repeal protections for residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity. 

The Republican-led council cited a number of reasons for repealing the ordinance including redundancy of its provisions. 

This ordinance was enacted just four months ago in Oct. 2021 by a then-Democratic majority. It extended protections to LGBTQ people in the workplace, in public, and in housing. 

"It's important because it does protect us despite some council members believing it doesn't," Melissa Mattson, board member for the Franklin County Coalition for Progress said. "It allows us to have that mediation and restorative justice aspect."

Alice Elia, former borough president who sat on the Democratic council that enacted the ordinance in October, spoke out about it as well. 

"It's disheartening, it's disappointing, we have a lot of people in our community who felt a little safer and a little bit protected when this was passed last year," she said. "It's hard to see it as anything other than a political move."

One Chambersburg Borough resident was in favor of rescinding the ordinance. 

"I am definitely in the minority tonight and I believe that this ruling needs to be repealed," he said. "You show me anywhere in God's word where he approves of the discussions we had here tonight and you will not find it."

At least 70 municipalities in Pennsylvania have passed similar LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinances, but currently, there are no local or federal laws that protect members of the LGBTQ community against discrimination in public. 

Governor Wolf weighed in on the vote yesterday as well, calling for statewide anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

In response to the Chambersburg Borough Council's decision to repeal the ordinance last night, Chambersburg Mayor Kenneth Hock has issued a non-discrimination proclamation in its place. 

In a statement provided to FOX43, Mayor Hock stated that he hopes this action will "provide a compromise for those disappointed by the repeal" and that this action "provides a clear statement of policy by the local government." 

The proclamation states:

  • WHEREAS, in today's world, there are times that bigotry may occur on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, family status, veteran status, disability, marital status, or income status; and
  • WHEREAS, I request that all residents and visitors of the Borough of Chambersburg reject bigotry and discrimination against all individuals in any form or fashion and in any context, including employment, residential housing, and business transactions and sales; and
  • WHEREAS, strict adherence to the transcendent principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and equal protection will strengthen the Borough of Chambersburg as a community by deepening the bonds of the community and fostering a welcoming environment.
  • NOW THEREFORE, as Mayor of the Borough of Chambersburg, I declare that no resident or visitor of the Borough of Chambersburg (the "Borough") should be subjected to bigotry, discrimination, or oppression due to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, family status, veteran status, disability, marital status, or income status. All Borough residents and visitors should be treated with respect and dignity.
  • FURTHER, in the event that any resident or visitor of the Borough of Chambersburg is subjected to bigotry, discrimination, or oppression in the Borough the individual should seek resolution from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or any other existing agency with jurisdiction over the matter. I recommend that Borough staff be provided with information to direct members of the public to the appropriate agencies and authorities to report concerns regarding bigotry, discrimination, and oppression.

Hock also stated that while the Non-Discrimination Ordinance has been repealed, citizens and businesses in Chambersburg remain subject to non-discrimination laws on both the federal and state level. Municipalities in Pennsylvania are given the option to establish local human relations commissions, which could supplement these protections provided on the federal and state level.

The borough of Chambersburg is also required to maintain a separate non-discrimination policy for vendors, which it does, according to Hock's statement.

The borough also maintains a local Fair Housing Commission to address discrimination in housing. 

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