The Shippensburg Borough Council will vote on an anti-discrimination ordinance impacting many groups including the LGBTQ+ community during its Tuesday night meeting.
The “Shippensburg Borough Anti-Discrimination Ordinance,” Ordinance No. 20-947 will prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or educational institutional access, according to the document.
The ordinance protects community members on the basis of race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, handicap or disability, or the use of a guide animal.
Discriminatory acts include any unlawful act noted in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
“The fact that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act would not define a practice as unlawful when that practice is taken on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, genetic information, or marital status shall not exempt such practice from being considered a discriminatory act under this ordinance,” the ordinance reads.
There are no overarching laws that prevent discrimination against sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability. Sexual orientation and gender expression are not included.
When state and federal governments fail to extend protections, Shippensburg University psychology professor Corrine Bertram said local ordinances fill in the gaps.
“If we were to experience denial of housing or service based on being LGBTQ, most of us could not afford to bring a lawsuit against an individual or business and wait for that case to travel through the court system to create a new precedent in civil rights law,” Bertram said. “An ordinance provides a local hearing for complaints and redress. It acknowledges that a municipality might set a higher more inclusive bar for its residents because it wants to promote a broader community and recognizes that unequal treatment harms all residents and visitors.”
SU faculty members who serve on the SU LGBTQ+ Advisory Council said this ordinance will provide some relief for LGBTQ+ individuals in the community.
“LGBTQ+ individuals within the Shippensburg community will feel some relief in knowing they can move forward with the process of securing housing with the knowledge that if they experience discrimination, there is an avenue for challenging,” said LGBTQ+ Advisory Council Co-Chairs Jayleen Galarza and Nicole Santalucia. “It’s important to note that such an ordinance won’t completely eliminate housing discrimination or discrimination in other public accommodations — there’s still so much work to be done in creating a cultural shift — however, it can be a catalyst toward more sustainable and meaningful changes needed in the community.”
The LGBTQ+ council members said they were made aware in July that an SU student was denied housing in the borough because of his sexual orientation.
“While this recent example of housing discrimination did not happen to us personally, such discriminatory acts toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) communities sends a larger message to everyone — we are, in fact, not welcomed here,” Galarza and Santalucia said. “If we want to cultivate a culture of inclusivity on our campus and within the local community, then we need to show up for all marginalized communities.”
The LGBTQ+ Council encouraged allies to write letters to the borough council to demonstrate support.
The Shippensburg Borough Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. via Zoom.
The public is invited to watch the meeting. Borough citizens may submit questions or comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and all submissions must be received by 4 p.m., according to a Borough of Shippensburg Facebook page post. Any questions or comments about the meeting should be addressed to the above address.