Butler City Council Postpones Vote on Nondiscrimination Ordinance

The anticipated vote on a municipal nondiscrimination ordinance in the City of Butler was postponed to give advocates more time to work on language.  PFLAG Butler has put together a comprehensive explanation of the ordinance here. 

The Mayor of Butler, Tom Donaldson, opposed the ordinance and wants a vote now rather than later, calling the public debate “out of control.”

The ordinance sponsor, Kathy Kline, made the decision to pull the bill.

Council member Kathy Kline said Tuesday that she would pull the ordinance from Thursday’s meeting agenda to give proponents and opponents of the measure more time to work through their disagreements in private meetings.
“Let’s see what common ground — what language is there,” Kline said. “I just feel we haven’t done the due diligence.”
The two sides of public debate over the issue — represented Tuesday by Josh Crawford and Sabrina Schnur of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which supports the measure, and Bill Halle of Grace Youth and Family Foundation, who along with some religious and business leaders opposes it — agreed to continue private meetings where they discuses their differences over the ordinance.
This seems suspicious. How much more common ground do you need?
I was struck by a sentence in the Butler Eagle that ties this conversation to a larger dialogue around strategy on statewide nondiscrimination ordinances.
He pledged to continue his opposition to the proposal, which in its current form would enshrine so-called “public accomodation,” employment and other protections for LGBT citizens and form a Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of discrimination.
So-called “public accommodation” ??? What the heck does that mean? One reasonable conclusion is that it means no public accommodation protections at all. Not as an incremental strategy, but as a capitulation to ignorance and bigotry among people of so-called faith. No one in their right mind thinks Butler will come back to this third plank of protections if they can get away with housing and employment.
The other conclusion is a very weakened ordinance shrouded by religious freedom exemptions. These ordinances do not require churches to hire preachers who are from a different faith. But they do not allow churches to discriminate against hiring a janitor who is a different faith much like they would not allow a predominantly white church to sidestep hiring a black man. The public accommodations component gets into the gray area of spaces like bakeries selling wedding cakes to gay couples, hotels renting the honeymoon suite to a lesbian couple and casinos ensuring their staff do not wrongly confront trans women using the ladies bathroom after spending hundreds of dollars in the business. Tricky situations that can and have been successfully negotiated in many municipalities and states around the nation.
Much like churches being required to comply with things like building inspections, health codes in their kitchens and payroll regulations for their paid staff. None of these things have a record of destroying a faith community. They protect the community.
I commend the folks at Butler PFLAG for continuing to advocate for this ordinance. I hope statewide groups like Equality Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress as well as other groups serving Butler will step up their investment in this effort. We need a win in Western PA.
The absolute most essential thing right now is for residents of the City of Butler AND businesses based in the City of Butler to contact the Mayor, their member of Council AND to contact PFLAG Butler. That’s what this will come down to – you and I mobilizing people from Butler to get involved.


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