27th: Cheltenham Township Passes Non-discrimination Law

Will your municipality be the 28th?
By Frank Pizzoli

Adrian Shanker, Equality Pennsylvania president

By a six to one vote Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County Feb. 15 adopted a non-discrimination ordinance spearheaded by Area Residents for Equality and other community groups. The lone “no” vote was based on what Commissioner Charles McKeown cited as his “religious beliefs”.

Equality PA president Adrian Shanker told Central Voice the vote reflects what “residents want their township to be, a place where everyone is treated fairly.” Other groups joining the effort were the local NAACP chapter, a United Church of Christ congregation, and Reformed Congregation of Israel.

Except for a few individuals who testified during public comment time that they did not believe discrimination existed and therefore the ordinance was unnecessary, the measure drew community support.

Shanker said,” passing the ordinance makes it clear “discrimination against anyone, including LGBT people, is simply unwelcome” and that “discrimination is not a value of this community.” The measure applies to employment, housing, and public accommodation. The township is the 27th municipality in the state to pass such an ordinance, although the state’s three largest cities – Altoona, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport – do not.

Most recently, Susquehanna Township (Dauphin County), Jenkintown Borough and Whitemarsh Township, both in Montgomery County, passed protective ordinances, preceded by Bethlehem. The complete list includes: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie (County), Allegheny (County), Reading, Scranton, Bethlehem, Lancaster (City), Harrisburg, York, State College, Easton, Newton Borough, Swarthmore, Lower Merion Township, West Chester, New Hope, Landsdown, Doylestown, Conshohocken, Haverford, Springfield Township, and Montgomery County.

Over the past year, Equality PA has combined efforts with locally-based advocates to pass ordinances in nine municipalities. With a goal of 25 ordinances passed by 2012, the statewide advocate organization is ahead of its goal.

“We are really just doing what state legislators have told us to do all along on non-discrimination,” Equality PA executive director Ted Martin told Central Voice in previous stories. “Pass local ordinances and that will build grassroots pressure on us to act they say. So we have made passing ordinances a top priority and we wanted 25 on the books by 2012,” he said.

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