Now here’s a much-needed shot in the arm for LGBTQ folks in Western Pennsylvania – Ross Township has extended nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The vote was 5-2 to create an Equal Opportunity Board and extended the protections.
As you might anticipate, the vote was long party lines. Sigh. Republican Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, who is a ridiculously contorted Christian conservative, just didn’t show up for the vote. He’s in a hot race for the State Senate seat. Opponent Democrat Lindsey Williams has a 9 point lead. So now he’s NOT on the record voting for or against LGBTQ residents. Just like he’s not on the record with his church affiliation even though he is boasting about his church affiliation. Shaffer is part of Three Rivers Grace Church, for the record. Williams is not.
So three Republicans, two showed up to cast their vote against this ordinance. This excerpt from the Pgh City Paper coverage is absolutely spot-on:
Republican Commissioner Rick Avon said before vote that he did not advocate discrimination. “I don’t discriminate against anything,” said Avon. “As a Christian, we are all sinners.” Avon then voted against the ordinance.
I mean … what the hell does that even mean? If we are all sinners, so what? This isn’t about the nature or character of people involved, it is about their actions.
You can bet your bottom dollar that if a Christian was being discriminated against in Ross Township for their beliefs, Avon would be howling in outrage. He does believe in protections, just not for LGBTQ people. And he probably doesn’t really think we deserve to lose our jobs or homes based on our identity, but he’s uncomfortable with the thought of his kids using a bathroom with us and he doesn’t want Christians to have to bake us cakes. Second class rights are alright for the most sinful as long as we don’t make people uncomfortable.
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This is exactly the same thing with would-be candidate for Allegheny County District Attorney Turahn Jenkins tried to use to defend his candidacy. It doesn’t fly. It is absurd and patently offensive. But local Democrats are lining up to support him even as we know they would condemn Avon’s position. They see a difference where I just see undue blurring of the lines between church and state. That’s inherently anti-democratic and both parties are guilty of it.
Anyway … this ordinance I believe is the 51st in the Commonwealth, the fifth in Western Pennsylvania and the fourth in the Pittsburgh region.
Central and Eastern PA have 46 ordinances. Western Pennsylvania has five. That’s telling.
I am especially pleased that the momentum comes from North of Pittsburgh. I’ve long thought that a local ordinance in Cranberry Township would be a huge strategic victory – that’s a portion of Butler County desperate for credibility as a growing metro exburb, but lacking any protections that will draw the favor of the Fortune 500. Plus, it is Daryl Metcalfe’s hometown. So that won’t happen soon, but movement north of Pittsburgh proper is a good start.
On a personal note, I spend a lot of time in Ross Township. We live just over the border in Pittsburgh’s Northside and often travel that way to shop, dine, etc. Our pharmacy, Target, Starbucks, our favorite Eat n Park, an Italian restaurant we like all fall within Ross Township boundaries – we spend a lot of money there on a regular basis. Also, our preferred dry cleaner, a few other restaurants, the car rental agency we use, our AAA office, and the Urgent Care we use are in that community.
Now we’ve always been protected by the Allegheny County ordinance, but we’ve also noted a lot more Trump/MAGA pronouncements on bumper stickers, baseball caps, and general conversations. This is especially true at Eat N Park and in Target. The extra layer of protection and the clear affirmation by the local government does matter to me as a lesbian living in the region.
The 270+ contributors to the #AMPLIFY project speak far more eloquently on the issue of discrimination than all of my blog posts combined. I urge you to browse the archive and read their responses on these issues. Their collective experiences speak volumes about why we need more progress in this area.
If you are interested in taking up this cause in your municipality, reach out the Pennsylvania Youth Congress for support. They can help you get started and walk with you through the entire process. It has to start with one resident deciding that now is the time.
Are you ready to be that person?
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