Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Passes Anti-discrimination bill
The Allegheny County Council voted Wednesday evening, July 1, 2009 to approve the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance, legislation that will ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression with limited exceptions. Although similar protections have been in place in the City of Pittsburgh for over 20 years, this week's ordinance marks the first time these protections will be extended to County borders. This is a historic step forward and true cause for celebration.
The bill, which passed by an 8-6 vote, established a county-wide Human Relations Commission that will be responsible for investigating claims of discrimination. The ordinance is set to become law once it is signed by County Executive Dan Onorato on Thursday, July 9, 2009.
The Coalition for the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance, along with many other individuals, worked with County Executive Dan Onorato and County Council this week to modify the bill after a previous amendment was found to include an unreasonably broad loophole per religious exemptions. The final amended language, while explicitly stating an exemption by religious organizations, sidesteps the issue of organizations that receive tax-payer funds. This language allows for further dialogue on this particular issue.
LGBT rights organizations from across the state also praised the Ordinance for its inclusive protection of transgender individuals. The Coalition for the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance called the new legislation "the highest standard of trans-inclusive language in the Commonwealth." The county is now the fifteenth municipality in the state to grant protection to LGBT individuals.
For the past year, our community has worked with determination and persistence to bring this day about. Throughout this process, we have formed important relationships, and the unique collaboration between LGBT organizations, allies, grassroots activists, and public officials will continue to serve as a model of effective partnership. We thank all those involved, particularly Council Members Burn, DeFazio, Cleary, Fitzgerald, Macey, Martoni, Robinson and, of course, the prime sponsor Amanda Green. We also thank County Executive Dan Onorato and his staff for lobbying in support of the Ordinance in recent weeks.
While the individuals and groups involved in this effort are numerous, several groups and grassroots outlets offered frequent input into the process in recent days: Speakers at the Council meeting, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission, ACLU-PA, Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, Equality Advocates PA, GLCC Pittsburgh, GLEC Group, New Voices Pittsburgh-Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, One Church Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania NOW, PERSAD Center, Steel-City Stonewall Democrats, Trans Working Group, Women's Law Project, Women & Girl's Foundation of PA. Bloggers also were a vital part of getting information to the community and include pghlesbian.com, pghcomet.blogspot.com, thomascwaters.com amongst others.
We will continue to work for equality at the local, state and national levels. But, before we get back to work, let's take this moment to celebrate and affirm that together, we can move equality forward for our entire community-LGBT and straight.
Thank you for your support!
Coalition for the Allegheny County Human Relations Ordinance
Now all I have to do is move about 25 miles down the road so I can enjoy the results of this new law.
Tolerate one another, just as I have tolerated you.- Jesus Christ?