Camp Hill is moving forward on an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to one approved by the Carlisle Borough Council in December.
The Camp Hill Borough Council Wednesday night discussed the proposed ordinance that would establish a local human relations commission to help investigate and settle disputes over discrimination.
The ordinance would provide protections against discrimination in areas like housing, employment and use of public accommodations to people based on race, gender, veteran status and a host of other aspects protected by federal and state law.
The ordinance would also extend those protections to people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, which are not afforded the same protections under state and federal law.
“The crux of the ordinance is to broadly protect against discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, age, veterans status, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and or mechanical aids,” council member Kim Snell-Zarcone said.
None of the council members voiced opposition to the ordinance as whole at the Wednesday meeting, but questions were raised as how best to implement it.
Those questions ranged from determining the proper size of the local human relations commission, to the use of professional mediation, to adding language aimed at curbing frivolous claims.
Exceptions are created in the ordinance for things like the hiring practices of religious corporations or associations and certain decision of who to rent to when a building is owner occupied and has a common entrance.
The ordinance also received support from the majority of those in attendance Wednesday.
“Passing this ordinance is one way to show our community, especially our children, that what they learn about Lion Pride at school extends beyond the walls of their schools, and we as a community are committed to these values in our daily lives,” resident Alissa Packer said during the meeting’s public comment section. “Equally important to us is that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered neighbors, family and friends, as well as visitors to our community understand that Camp Hill Borough is inclusive and welcoming to all.”
Of the more than 50 people who attended the meeting, only two voiced opposition to the ordinance.
One person expressed opposition to what he perceived was the borough condoning a lifestyle he did not agree with, and was cut off by the borough council after making a lewd comment.
The other person in opposition said he was opposed to any non-elected commission being created.
“I do not believe in committees that are not elected by the people to adjudicate somebody’s perceived discrimination,” resident Dustin Palmer said. “... I get worried when I see those types of things in an ordinance when it says ‘perceived’ and you’re going to go ahead and put somebody in front of a council or committee to do those things.”
Palmer said he would support the measure if it included language to protect against frivolous claims.
Language for the ordinance has not yet been made available to the public, but Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, said it is similar to one enacted in Doylestown and 38 other municipalities in the state including Carlisle.
Martin was invited by the council to answer questions about the ordinance during the meeting.
“What you’re saying to the community, and what you are saying to Pennsylvania, is that Camp Hill Borough is a place that believes in fairness and is welcoming,” Martin said. “It wants you to live here. It wants you to feel safe here. It wants you to stay here, and it wants you to shop here.”
The board is expected to vote on advertising the proposed ordinance at its next meeting at 7 p.m. April 12.