May 25 – The Chambersburg Borough Council exploratory committee set up to look into a possible non-discrimination ordinance for the LGBTQ+ community as well as the formation of a Human Rights Commission will meet tomorrow night in borough hall. A recent complaint along the same lines against a Borough Councilman showcases what the community could face if the ordinance passes. A $3266.50 wrist slap paid for by taxpayers.
Because the meeting is a “less than a quorum” subcommittee meeting, the public can view the meeting via Zoom only and will be muted during the proceedings.
Three borough council members are on the committee, including Kathy Leedy from the Third Ward, Heath Talhelm from the Fifth Ward and Mike Herbert from the Second Ward.
News Talk 103.7FM is working on a way to post the last meeting from May 11.
In that meeting, from which a clip was aired this morning, Council Member Leedy said this:
“If Chambersburg passes an ordinance, Chambersburg would be assuming local administration of a law in the same manner that Chambersburg assumed local administration of the retail, food licensing and inspection law. For those of you who may not know, some restaurant owners some time ago approached council with concerns and complaints about the state inspection system. Subsequently, council decided that local inspections would better protect the community. Inspections would be more frequent and would cover mobile food vendors as well. While there was a cost involved in this change, council decided not to rely on the state for this work, but to do the inspections locally. And while that’s not a perfect comparison, Chambersburg has done something similar in the past.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the exploratory committee this morning on First News.
Jansen said, “Not a perfect comparison? There’s no comparison to this. A couple times they tried to compare this to making decisions about chickens or tattoos or food inspections. There’s no comparison legally in my opinion.”
Barkdoll agreed, “The problem with the comparison is a lot of local boroughs for many years have gone to local health inspections, but…the state did not have adequate resources to inspect local restaurants and food facilities, but secondly you’ll find when you dig into that at the local borough level, there are vendors out there already providing those services. For example, the borough is able to hire a code enforcement agency that also does health inspections. So the borough did not have to create a whole new board, a whole new position to do it. There’s a vendor that’s doing it. That is totally different from this Human Relations Commission because in this case, not only would the borough have to create its own board to do the investigation and the adjudication, but there is no suggestion that this isn’t already being adequately covered at the state level. The state’s Human Relations Commission has an enormous staff and resources to already handle these matters so there’s where there’s a huge difference between the analogy she’s trying to make.”
Jansen added, “Just the complication of this legal issue. We don’t have a handle on this yet. There’s controversy and opaqueness about this group and the legal laws applying to them. Someone asked her since when does the borough start catering to special interest groups. Kathy Leedy came back with they’re not asking for anything special. They just want to be treated like the other groups and when she says that she’s talking about race. She’s talking about religion. She’s talking about the other civil rights designated groups. LGBTQ has no claim to be a part of that group. They’ve never had the government have laws against them that prevent their rights. They have the same rights as all of us do to be protected from harm, or being stopped from getting services or being stopped from housing. They already have all those rights. They are asking for something special and extra to which they’re not really entitled to. You could say conservatives could go to them then and say we’re the most picked on group in the country right now. More prejudice against us than ever. Why don’t you give us special privileges and rights according to this? It would be the same thing. There is really no difference.”
Barkdoll said, “Their protection was further confirmed last year in that US supreme court case. Justice Gorsuch joined the liberals and the majority rule that sex under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 now had this expansive view that includes sexual orientation and of course that’s in addition to other protections that are already in place. This is I think the problem where this board is going to get jammed up that these protections are already in place at both the state and the federal level. As our guest said on the program last week, they have not had any instances in Pennsylvania of these complaints being filed, but they are waiting because they know from other states where this has happened, it has gotten quickly mired in litigation and expenses and there’s where I think the borough needs to be really careful before they wade into this thing.”
In terms of a business owner, what would it mean if a new ordinance is enacted?
Barkdoll said, “If you’re a very small business, it’s certainly going to create some new levels of alarm for you because as we’ve seen happen the last few weeks here locally, presumably a complaint could be filed against you even if a comment or some kind of conduct towards someone is perceived as discriminatory under this local ordinance. These sort of complaints would go nowhere at the state level or the EEOC but this local board seemingly may have a greater appetite to get involved in these sort of things, so I think that is a bad thing for small businesses. If you’re a medium to larger size business, think someone that has their own internal HR department, I imagine if this gets implemented, you’re going to see all of those places have to engage in some level now of another layer of local training, geared specifically towards this board. These businesses would never admit to this, but they do not want to engage in this. This is just another headache for them. It’s another expense, but again, they’re all going to have to be operating under this heightened level of awareness with now a local layer of administration that they might be subject to if someone files a complaint.”
Jansen said, “I have to point out, they (the three council members) were given a 117 page packet and in that packet, they reference that Bostock decision. That’s the Supreme Court decision and she keeps saying how that’s fairly new. The Pennsylvania Human Relations guidance is fairly new. It’s all very new and untested and unprecedented. That’s why they shouldn’t be dealing with this at a local level. Also Salzmann and Hughes did a memorandum to them as did the President of Borough Council. I’ve asked for copies of the memorandums. I think people deserve to know what are they looking at. Also the two groups that they have webpages from, they’re completely LGBTQ activist groups. So, so far they really only have all very pro what the activists want as far as research and information. They say they want stuff from the other side but we have to make sure that they do get a balanced view of this.”
Ryan added, “Make sure we reiterate all of these protections are already in place. This is already here. It’s already available in the state. What law firm will be getting the coin off of this? And what facilitator will the borough use in which to teach all these businesses the right thing here? You’ve got to follow the money, you’ve got to follow the fact that nobody’s got it on the ball here the way the state and federal level do.”
Barkdoll said, “At the state and federal level, you truly have experts involved at these offices. This is what they do for a living. Full time. They have staffs of attorneys and case workers that review these cases. They determine if there’s merit or not and if they do determine there’s merit, they move it on through the system. No one at a borough level, whether it’s Chambersburg or any of these other boroughs, they simply don’t have the expertise and the resources to do this. That’s why the state office exists. That’s why the federal EEOC office exists.”
Barkdoll made a point to state, “As I’ve said repeatedly I think all of us endorse the idea of equal rights. We don’t want anyone to be discriminated against. Unfortunately I think sometimes people hear this, that we don’t support the idea of a local board doing that, and they immediately say well that means you’re anti-LGBTQ+. No. You couldn’t be further from the truth. The point is we don’t need another layer of local government handling this when there’s already federal and state protections in place.”