Will Lancaster County Keep Human Relations Commission?

Next meeting July 29
By Frank Pizzoli

Photos by Interweave, Lancaster PA Chapter

At a time when Lancaster city and county lgbt activists and their allies are asking county commissioners to add “sexual orientation” to the county’s protected classes, commissioners are considering dropping the unmandated service.

At last week’s packed meeting more than 100 people gathered to discuss the future of the county’s Human Relations Commission. Reports are that commissioners received about 100 phone calls and 50 letters on the matter. All went unanswered activists say.

The city Human Relations Commission already has language protecting lgbt residents in what are called “public accommodations” such as housing purchases and rentals, restaurants, mainly services that are otherwise offered to the general public.

The next public meeting is set for July 29, 7 p.m., Room 102, county administration building, 150 N. Queen St., in the Annex located right behind Binns Park, a commissioners’ secretary has confirmed. Originally, there were conflicting media reports that the meeting would be held July 28 at 9:15 a.m.

Lancaster is one of five Pennsylvania counties with a human relations commission, founded in 1964 in the midst of civil unrest. By 1991, the commission was authorized to enforce the county’s anti-discrimination laws. The move to mothball the commission is cast as a cost-cutting measure estimated to save about $470,000 annually within a $150 million county budget.

Commissioner Scott Lehman says the numbers work out to $1.39 per resident to provide the commission’s watchdog role.

Lancaster’s NAACP branch released a statement opposing any effort by commissioners to dismantle the commission. Branch president Cobbie Burns said the move could set the county back not just on the issue of civil rights, but economically as well.

After news of the possible closing commission executive director Leslie L. Hyson was quoted as saying, “We’re not a mandated service, so we’re pretty much a luxury that I guess some people wouldn’t see as necessary.”

The Lancaster LGBT Organizing Committee’s Adanjesus Marin questions the timing of the move.

In an “Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era” column Marin was quoted as saying it’s more likely the commissioners are using the budget crunch “as an opportunity to put us on the defense, to even defend having a human relations committee and sort of throw us off.”

“Commissioners Martin and Stuckey, in their proposal to eliminate the HRC rather than add lgbt protections, have proven what we’ve known all along. Our struggle for civil rights is inextricably bound to the broader civil rights movement,” Marin says.

“This attack on the civil rights of all people of Lancaster has opened the door to building the broadest possible coalition, not just of lgbt people and our allies, but also of people of color, women, immigrants, religiously persecuted, and all oppressed peoples,” Marin says.

“The fact that Commissioners Martin and Stuckey would rather eliminate everyone’s local civil rights rather than include the lgbt community in the Act shows what little regard they have not just for the gay community, but for all those who face discrimination in Lancaster County.”

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One Response to “Will Lancaster County Keep Human Relations Commission?”

  1. Michele Metzler Says:

    are we really one nation under GOD If so ask yourself what would god do if he knew you were turning your back among his children…..by not keeping the human right laws thats what your doing turning your back among his children!!!!!

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