Bucks County Herald

Newtown Township approves anti-discrimination bill


Discriminated against in the workplace in Newtown Township? Unjustly held from housing because of sexual orientation?
Before, you had to travel to downtown Philadelphia to file a complaint against an employer or a landlord.

No more.

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an anti-discrimination ordinance that establishes a Human Relations Commission within the township. Democrats John Mack, Dennis Fisher and Linda Bobrin along with Chairman Phil Calabro voted affirmatively for the bill. Republican Kyle Davis did not attend the meeting.

The ordinance provides protection based on all the categories established by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act in addition to extending to those who feel they’ve been unjustly treated on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“I can’t overstate how important it is that you’re going to pass this tonight,” said Yardley Borough Councilman David Bria.

The ratification of the bill came a day after the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, a late member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay elected official in California, who was murdered by a former colleague in 1978.

Bria says Milk wanted all gay men and women to come out of the closet. That way, they’d be more accepted in society, he reasoned.

“If people knew us, it would start to break the stigma and the hate and the discrimination that our community experiences,” added Bria.

“We’ve come a long way since that time but we still have a long way to go.”

Pennsylvania recently ratified anti-discrimination legislation that extends protections to LGBTQ men and women, according to the Human Relations Act, though Bria says it doesn’t go far enough. Bria also noted that there are only 604 LGBTQ elected officials, nationwide.

“The perfect embodiment of Harvey Milk’s legacy is that I as one of those officials come to you as my colleagues and ask you to take this important step and that you are going to take action on it.”

To the dismay of one of the members, the ordinance does not extend to those, who as part of their employment, reside in the personal residence of their employer.

“Why is that an exclusion?” asked Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin. “That seems to me to be a person who is at most risk.”

The original Newtown Township ordinance, composed in September, was amended in two ways. First, the modified bill made changes to clarify that a complainant could appear before the HRC with or without an attorney. Also, the effective date of the ordinance comes only when the township establishes its commission, which hasn’t happened yet.


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