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Middletown council looking to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

By Dan Miller, danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 5/17/17

Middletown is looking to join 43 other municipalities in Pennsylvania that have a local ordinance banning discrimination against people based upon their sexual orientation and gender …

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Middletown council looking to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

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Middletown is looking to join 43 other municipalities in Pennsylvania that have a local ordinance banning discrimination against people based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Borough council could be ready to approve advertising such a proposed ordinance by council’s next meeting on June 6, following discussion of the proposal during council’s agenda-setting session on Wednesday, May 17.

An adopted ordinance could be in place by July, said Mayor James H. Curry III, who proposed the ordinance along with a borough resident who serves on the Middletown Human Relations Commission.

The Middletown ordinance would be modeled upon an ordinance that was passed earlier this month in Camp Hill outlawing discrimination against people based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Middletown has an ordinance approved in 1979 that prohibits discrimination against borough residents based upon their age, race, color, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, marital status, and/or disability, said Mike Woodworth, a resident of Hoffer Street who was appointed to the borough’s Human Relations Commission in August, 2016.

Woodworth called upon council to update the ordinance to prohibit discrimination against borough residents based upon their sexual orientation.

“A number of scientific studies in recent years have found evidence to support that sexual orientation is linked to a person’s genetics, making it something as uncontrollable as their skin color, ancestry, national origin or disabilities that they may have been born with,” Woodworth said.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, however “the lapse in our borough code could allow for someone whose personal ideology conflicts with this federal ruling to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation,” he added.

Mayor James H. Curry III told council that he asked Woodworth to come to the meeting and propose the ordinance after Curry learned of Camp Hill’s recent action banning discrimination against the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer/questioning) community.

“Pennsylvania does not have a statute making it illegal to discriminate against a person based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Curry said. “The (borough) Human Relations Commission prohibits as Mike noted discrimination for other reasons, but those same protections are not afforded to the LGBTQ community. I am hoping that this body would be open to that type of ordinance here.”

The council members present all expressed support for moving forward with the proposal. Violations would be brought before the Human Relations Commission.

On a related note, council during its June 6 meeting could give final approval to a proposed change that has been advertised to the ordinance governing the Human Relations Commission that would allow for members of the commission to be appointed on an at-large basis — meaning they could live anywhere in the borough, instead of having to come from one of the three wards.

Curry already has appointed two members of the five-member commission — Woodworth and Rachelle Reid. The third member was required by ordinance to come from the Third Ward. However, no one from the Third Ward responded when the borough sought applicants.

Curry said he hopes that dropping the ward requirement will make it easier for the borough to attract a third person.

Once the mayor appoints a third member, the three members are responsible for appointing the fourth and fifth members, Curry told council.

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