Last week, the Allegheny County Council’s Committee on Government Reform heard testimony about Councilwoman Amanda Green’s proposed ordinance which would create a countywide, 16-member Human Relations Commission to enforce a nondiscrimination ordinance in housing, employment, public accommodations, and other contexts. The committee heard testimony from Stephen Glassman, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and two county residents, Dana Elmendorf and Reverend Deryck Tines.
Mr. Glassman spoke about the differences between his state agency and Councilwoman Green’s proposed county commission. Perhaps the most important difference is that the county commission would be able to protect citizens who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Currently, there is no protection for these classes of people at the state level. Another difference Mr. Glassman talked about was that things tend to move more quickly at the county level, according to what he knows about the human relations commissions in Erie County and Philadelphia County, and those local agencies are more sensitive to local issues at play when dealing with discrimination complaints.
Ms. Elmendorf and Rev. Tines offered more personal testimony, speaking about their experiences as residents of Allegheny County with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. An overview of the meeting can be found here (PDF).
We support this legislation and hope that the council moves quickly to approve it before the end of the year. If it is not approved before then, the bill dies and will need to be re-introduced next year. It’s encouraging, however, that 12 representatives on the 15-member county council are co-sponsors of the bill. The sponsors of the bill are listed in this document (PDF), and we encourage you to contact your council representative to express support for the bill.