As we’re being reminded during our ongoing battle to preserve and protect abortion rights here in the United States, simply making progress doesn’t mean achievements will be maintained or built upon indefinitely. Unfortunately, plenty of conservatives are eager to pull us backward in time. Another example comes down to LGBTQ+ protections against discrimination. As Daily Kos has covered, state lawmakers have been more than happy to stir controversy over non-issues, like trans youth playing sports, to keep constituents distracted from their failures to lead.
In central Pennsylvania, a borough council—which then had a Democratic majority—recently passed a nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for people based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. These protections come into play when it comes to housing, employment, and public accommodations. This is especially important because the state does not have these protections statewide for LGBTQ+ folks. Within the four months since the council passed the ordinance, however, conservatives have become hellbent on making their way onto the council and repealing the protection, as reported by LGBTQ Nation.
“People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all,” Allen Coffman, the council’s new president, said about repealing the ordinance. “I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”
And so, the vote to repeal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ folks. Alice Elia, who formerly served as the council president, described the council’s decision as a “political move” about an issue that should not be politicized. “It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue,” Elia stated. “This should be something we are all concerned about.”
In speaking to PennLive, Elia added that a number of the folks who want to repeal the protections are new to local government and don’t have considerable experience—overturning an ordinance is a big deal no matter where you stand on the issue, and rushing it isn’t a move to take lightly.
But with a fresh slew of pro-Trump Republicans on the council, the vote to remove protections was a priority. The council now has a 7-3 conservative majority.
“I think it’s a national strategy of the Republican party to get to the base,” Sandra Mailey, who serves as the Franklin County Democratic Committee chairperson, told PennLive. “And get to local government to take over from grassroots groups and try to maintain power that way.”
Ultimately, the repeal passed with a 7-3 vote on Monday night. As reported by PennLive, more than 160 people followed the meeting via Zoom, and many people appeared in person as well. Only a handful of constituents expressed a desire to repeal the protections. In fact, people were pretty (and legitimately) upset about it.
“You want to divide this community,” Kim Ward said. “You want to have incidents where there’s going to be violence, and that’s uncalled for.”
Councilperson Bill Everly said he’s faced discrimination because of his weight, but that he hasn’t tried to “carve out a special exemption” because of it. He said he feels like the ordinance divides people. (To be clear: Fatphobia is very real, and a legitimate issue in our society, but people facing discrimination or bullying without protection doesn’t mean no one should have protection, either.)
“Our kids are reporting the fact that they’re getting bullied, pushed downstairs, barked at, and called multiple expletives on a daily basis,” Dawn Abraham, who serves as the co-sponsor for the GSA at a local high school said at the meeting. “By pulling your support for this NDO you’re showing our community that you don’t support the school children in this community.”
“We will be the first and only town to have a nondiscrimination ordinance rescinded,” Kathy Leedy, who serves as a councilperson, stated according to local outlet ABC 27. “You cannot rescind that once you do it. This is the government taking rights away. That is very, very serious.”
Ultimately, Chambersburg is the first municipal in the state to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance.
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