On Thursday, October 22nd, the Sharpsburg Borough Council voted down an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in a 4-3 vote. There is now an effort to urge the council to reverse course and adopt the ordinance without delay. You can watch the meeting on the borough’s website here.
Sharpsburg is a small-town borough of approximately 3,300 residents bordering Pittsburgh along the Allegheny River.
We had to check with historians last week, but if this is Sharpsburg Borough Council’s final action, there is nothing on record in Pennsylvania history in accord with their vote. The only known ordinances to have failed — but were all later adopted — were in Abington nearly ten years ago, and State College and Allentown in the 1970s. The Sharpsburg Borough Council is comprised of seven members who are all Democrats.
Sharpsburg Borough Council began discussions on an ordinance earlier this year. Council Vice-President Adrianne Laing introduced the ordinance which failed upon it’s final vote last Thursday. It had advanced for publication in a 4-3 vote last month. Council President Brittany Reno and Council member Brad Truman, along with Council Vice-President Laing, voted in favor of the ordinance. Mayor Matt Rudzki is also a vocal supporter of the ordinance.
The Pennsylvania Youth Congress was only brought in to support this effort in the final days leading up to the vote by local advocates. PYC sent this letter to the Borough Council to urge a positive vote and provide additional information to questions that were raised at their September meeting. The PYC letter was cited numerous times by various council members as demonstrating the need for the ordinance, and was read into the record by Council Vice-President Laing during the meeting. State Senator Wayne Fontana and State Representative Sara Innamorato also sent in letters of support.
The four council members who voted against the ordinance expressed their dissent as being influenced by the Borough Solicitor, Mr. Michael Witherel, Esq., who claimed that the ordinance was unnecessary, redundant, and unconstitutional. All of those reasons are patently false. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of 1955 explicitly authorizes municipal governments to enact ordinances creating local human relations commissions that can enforce expansive nondiscrimination protections. There are now 60 local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ individuals throughout the commonwealth, which have been adopted since 1982. Ross Township, Mt. Lebanon Township, and the City of Pittsburgh have adopted their own nondiscrimination ordinances. Allegheny County adopted an ordinance in 2009. The scare-tactic of a legitimate lawsuit against this ordinance is simply unfounded.
The time is now to organize and encourage the Sharpsburg Borough Council to take swift action and correct this wrong.
We must urge them to learn correct information about the laws of Pennsylvania on discrimination and listen to the citizens of their community who are calling for this ordinance.
To that end, we are coordinating directly with Sharpsburg leaders to amplify their advocacy to ensure a nondiscrimination ordinance will be brought back up for a vote in short order.
Please review the following action items and get involved!
- All are welcome to write a personal email to the Sharpsburg Borough Council members who voted against enacting LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. You can urge them to reconsider their position and vote in favor of a future ordinance. You do not have to be a resident to write them, but we encourage those who have a connection to the borough (those who live within, work in, or visit the community) to do so. You may use the following talking points in drafting your email to the council members who voted against the ordinance and send them correspondences at the email addresses listed below. We encourage cordial communication with all public officials that shares personal and compelling reasons why they should back LGBTQ inclusion in the Sharpsburg community.
Talking Points for Emails to Council Members
○ I am writing to urge you to reconsider your position and support the passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Sharpsburg.
○ Everyone should be able to live, work, visit, and raise a family in Sharpsburg with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
○ Without explicit statewide protections for LGBTQ people in Pennsylvania it is the responsibility of local governments to step up
○ The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act empowers you to enact this ordinance. In fact, there have been 60 ordinances adopted over nearly 40 years protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in Pennsylvania.
○ Enacting this ordinance is a sure way to attract new residents, visitors, and investment in the Sharpsburg community.
○ Please, do the right thing and support the passage of this vital ordinance.
The four council members who voted against the ordinance on October 22, 2020 are:
Council member Joe Simbari (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Council member Gregory Domian (gdomian@SharpsburgBorough.com)
Council member Karen Pilarski-Pastor (email@example.com)
Council member Jonathan Jaso (jjaso@SharpsburgBorough.com)
- SHARPSBURG RESIDENTS ONLY please sign this petition here, which is also embedded below. This will be sent to the Sharpsburg Borough Council.
- A public meeting for all those in Sharpsburg interested in supporting a renewed call for the enactment of a local nondiscrimination ordinance will be held a couple weeks after the general election. We amplify posts from local leaders about when!
Questions or ideas? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We will pass your messages onto the advocates in Sharpsburg as they continue to build their campaign.