When looking at a nondiscrimination ordinance for the Borough of Chambersburg, money should play a big part

August 24 – With a meeting to discuss the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance for the LGBTQ+ in community in Chambersburg set for next Wednesday in the Capitol Theatre, a number of people still have a lot of questions.

Keep in mind, the Chambersburg borough already has an expanded nondiscrimination policy for its employees, volunteers and vendors. The new ordinance that will be discussed on September 1, will be borough wide and include everyone.

Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill explained it at a recent exploratory committee meeting: “What we did through that policy is we basically made a business determination that if there is a corporation or an individual or an employee or a customer that has been determined by council to have discriminated on one of those protected classes they would become ineligible to do business with the borough of Chambersburg.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the proposed ordinance this morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Jansen said, “Everybody that does any kind of business with the borough right now must comply with this.”

Ryan added, “And determined by council.”

Jansen said, “That’s the other thing. It’s objectively determined by council whether or not they violated – their expanded, by the way – nondiscrimination ordinances.”

Ryan said, “As you slow that thing down and you get a perspective on it, if I walk into or someone walks into a business and I look at a Facebook page or I look at some sort of post or I overhear something and that person goes into this business and then the borough council –”  

Jansen said, “Gets wind of it, they take it to borough council and say yeah this business, I saw this.”

Ryan continued, “So this business sold something to this person who mouthed off on Facebook that the borough council didn’t like, so now I don’t have to do any business with that business in the borough? Good grief, it’s a mess here. Help me understand this.”

Bardkoll said, “When that comment was made months ago, I thought at the time, this would be virtually impossible to police. When this first came out, I was looking at kind of bigger picture. Think of the hundreds of vendors the borough government does business with, ranging from the electric and gas utilities to just all of the day to day stuff that happens in a small municipality and who in the borough government would be monitoring or vetting or policing whether the vendor is in satisfactory compliance with this new nondiscrimination ordinance? It seems like it would be virtually impossible to do unless they were adding a full time staff member or members that would be doing nothing reviewing these vendors and their backgrounds. I just think it’s an impossible thing to ever achieve.”

There could be a scenario that someone comes to council, making a complaint about a business that council works with and because of the nondiscrimination ordinance, council cuts that vendor off from any further business.

Charles Gable, Borough Manager from Gettysburg where they adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance for the Borough of Gettysburg recently, spoke at a recent exploratory committee meeting where he said, “We have not put anything in our budget for 2021 related to HRC (Human Relations Commission). We may put a small placeholder number in our 2022 budget. Have not really thought that through yet, to be honest with you.”

Ryan said, “Haven’t thought that through yet. You’re dealing with people’s lives. You’re dealing with people’s money – taxpayers. That one caught me by surprise as well.”

Barkdoll said, “We know that locally here, the borough is thousands and thousands of dollars into this process already…so I wouldn’t be surprised if the final number is well north of even $10,000 just to get it where it is.”

This proposed ordinance for Chambersburg is modeled after Gettysburg’s ordinance – almost to the letter. The ordinance itself basically said there’s no enforcement power.

Barkdoll wondered, “If they’re in Adams County saying we don’t even budget any money for this, is that a signal that they have realized that this is an impossible type policy to enforce and they’re therefor not even allocating any budget money for it?”

A good question for the Chambersburg Borough Council could be how much money is being earmarked for this panel, for this commission?

Barkdoll said, “I think based on what the answer is may be a signal on how active or inactive as the case may be this panel is going to be.”

Ryan pointed out, “Remember that borough council, you’re supposed to be the stewards of people’s tax money. You are working for the taxpayer.”

Jansen said, “Let’s be honest what this is. Originally what the president of council wanted and what Jeffrey Stonehill said they wanted, it’s about I’m quoting them here in their emails back and forth to each other last August/September. This wasn’t something generated by a spontaneous group this spring. They were very dishonest about that. This is about a mechanism to investigate and punish citizens and businesses for violating discrimination on a local level. What they finally are going to end up here with this Gettysburg ordinance is a big, fat zero. My worry is how this could evolve in the future. This is now just a face-saving operation because they realize if they went as far as the gentleman from the State Human Relations Commission wanted and as the folks from the PA Youth Conference who started all this. This is all a statewide activist situation. This is not local people with true concerns.

She continued, “They wanted something like Lower Merion (a township above Philadelphia) has where they will have the ability to punish local businesses and individuals. They said that’s really what the activists all wanted because they’re trying to push the state to adopt the same laws. That’s what they ultimately want. They’re lying when they say this is about solving local problems. This is pure activism and what really bothers me is back in those email exchanges, they weren’t talking about LBGTQ+. They were talking about racism and they were talking about systemic racism and getting the borough council to vote yes, systemic racism exists. Now we’re talking ideology. So basically what they want to do is they want to enshrine their ideology in law here in the borough of Chambersburg. What people really should concentrate on and I would be storming, if I had enough people, the borough council to say you rescind that expanded nondiscrimination policies that you did because that’s where the real harm right now exists to the borough. What they did is they couldn’t get it through this ordinance because it would just be intolerable. It would be way too much risk to the taxpayers, although I think it’s still a huge risk to the business owners and the individuals which they do not address in their recommendation from exploratory council. The real risk is to anyone who wants to do business with the borough because they are forcing their ideology on you. They are subjectively judging as a left-leaning council whether or not you’re violating their morality, their ideology on what constitutes a man or a woman or what constitutes my personal lived truth as far as racism. That’s where the real danger is.”

Barkdoll said, “This was on their radar long before these people started coming before council over the past six or nine months. I think when they originally started this…they talked a lot about this is going to be a panel and a process that could investigate and adjudicate and I think as they dug more into this and probably on the advice of solicitors and other consultants, they realized that it was a mess. There’s no way that they could set those kind of mechanisms up here locally and then they got themselves in a trap, which is where they are now. They’re in a box. They could never come out and admit that this is something we shouldn’t do. They’re too much invested in it. So they’ve greatly watered it down. We now know again there’s no ability to enforce any of this, but they nonetheless want to pass something. Even though this is a very watered-down version…if they pass it, it does create a framework for future expansion perhaps. I don’t think it’s that farfetched that you could have a subsequent council dig into this again and say well we’ve already established this basis, now we’re going to add x, y and z to the ordinance and that again gets into the very slippery slope territory.”

Jansen added, “And the precedent is already there with their expanded policies they already have in place. Please, businesses in Chambersburg if you’re doing business with the borough, you’d better look at the fine print of the papers you signed on to. I urge the borough members, the people who can vote, you’d better consider getting out there and voting for people who are more sane and have more common sense then to put their ideology into our laws. That’s the last thing we need right now. We’re dividing our whole community in such an extraordinary way and it really gives the opportunity for people want revenge, quite frankly, for people who don’t believe in their ideology. I really feel like the council right now can pick who they want to work with the borough. It opens up that opportunity. I won’t accuse them of doing it right now. It opens up that opportunity for this kind of ideological winners and losers.”

Ryan said, “I would also caution the crowd of people that were summoned into borough council months and months ago. You were used. You were used and thrown away. And if you don’t get that, all you have to do is follow the truth on the email exchange from last year. You’re being used again. And the Democrats routinely will use groups over and over and over to push for stuff and then they’ll throw you away. Why are you doing that? When you brought up that email exchange? Shame on the president.”

Stonehill also said at an exploratory committee meeting, “We heard from the representative from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission that when a local municipality adopts a local ordinance to establish a local Human Relations Commission they can at that point examine some of the definitions and do some changes to the definitions. There were two examples that he gave in his speech which we find interesting. One was the definition of LGBTQ and the interpretation on the state level versus making it clear on the local level that those protections are included in the local ordinance. The second had to do with employers with four or less employees at the state level they are exempt but certain municipalities have decided to include them in the protection. Sort of an alteration as part of the process of bringing it local.”

Barkdoll said, “I think boroughs need to be really careful if they’re trying to redefine some of these classes. At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act Title 7 of 1964, set the initial framework of the protected classes. Those classes have all been further defined and refined over the years through additional legislation and court decisions as late as even last year at the US Supreme Court. And then of course the state level Human Relations Commission has to follow the guidance that’s coming from the federal level and they would further refine it. These are the experts. These are people that do this for a living. They have full time staff. The idea that a borough would step in and somehow reclassify or make new definitions, I think would be very treacherous legal territory.”

The Political Vibe weekend program interviewed people recently from the PA Family Institute who talked about the millions of dollars spent by municipal governments for some of these cases.

Barkdoll said, “These institutes, these interests groups, they’re looking for cases that could be brought to court to challenge. When the borough did their press release about this a couple weeks ago, they did point out that of the 69 municipalities that have adopted this in Pennsylvania, there’s only been one instance thus far of a case that has gone to court. That’s good. That tells you there’s not a lot of litigation. However when you hear boroughs talking about we want to get more active. We want to create new protected classes, new definitions, to me that’s the classic ingredients of things that would go into court for a challenge.”

Jansen said, “They’re going to try to vote on this September 1. There’s no doubt. They’re already starting to advertise the ordinance from Gettysburg as our ordinance we’re going to adopt here in Chambersburg.”

Ryan asked, “How can they make a decision? If you’re bringing everybody into the Theatre, then shouldn’t you marinate on it (what you heard) for a couple seconds?”

Jansen said, “You would think. If you really cared what the community thought or cared about their input, which they’re already indicating they don’t. It’s people putting their ideology into law and not caring. A gender identity, ones innermost concept of self, as male, female, a blend of both or neither. How individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. That’s all critical theory application. That is a belief system. It’s an ideology. It’s a secular theology. They want to enshrine it in law because even at the state Human Relations Commission, that’s not law. That’s guidance. And who the heck made those people God? They’re leftist ideologues. I’ve looked at the people on the Human Relations Commission. This is mostly influenced by Governor Wolf who is another progressive leftist ideologue who completely acts like this stuff that’s all theory is truth. And they want to make that truth into law. That’s why the advocates are saying please do this at the municipal level because they want to set precedents in law of their theology and force all of us to live by it. This is very dangerous.”

The proposed ordinance for Chambersburg was attached to the press release on Friday, so if you’d like to take a look, it’s here: https://www.chambersburgpa.gov/pdf/Ordinance%202021-___%20NDO%20Human%20Relations%20Commission-Draft.pdf

The PA Human Relations Commission establishes guidance, but when cases come before them, that guidance becomes the rules and regulations that are enforced.

Barkdoll said, “If you read what a lot of these activist groups are saying at the local municipal level…they do not like it that the General Assembly has not codified many of these things, so their workaround is to push it at the municipal level. They can’t get it done at the state level. They want to get it down to the local level. It’s still very gray, very debatable how enforceable any of this would be if it went into court. Again of the 69 other municipalities that have done this, there’s only been one case that has gone into court, which did provide some further guidance on this. There simply is not a lot of legal guidance from court decisions about any of this. I’m sure the activists, part of the strategy would be the more municipalities they can get to adopt this, the stronger their argument becomes that this is essentially the law of the land because so many municipalities are already following it but at this point, we just don’t really have any court decisions on the subject.”