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Chambersburg Borough Council votes to repeal nondiscrimination ordinance

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Chambersburg Borough council voted 7-3 Monday night to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance for the borough it passed just four months ago.

The ordinance, adopted by the previous Democratic majority council on Sept. 20, 2021, with six Democrats and one Republican voting in favor of the law and three other Republicans voting against, had banned discrimination based on sex, race, religion and other factors and established a local human relations commission to handle complaints of violations.

But after the municipal elections in November, the newly arranged borough council — featuring seven Republicans and three Democrats — voted 6-3 (one Republican was absent) to begin the repeal process on Jan. 3.

Monday night's final vote came after nearly three hours of comments from people in the community, with more than 160 of them joining via Zoom and and an additional 60 people in attendance at the meeting according to the Chambersburg Public Opinion. Out of about 60 people who spoke during the meeting, only five or six were in favor of repealing the ordinance.

According to the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, at least 71 of Pennsylvania’s 2,562 municipalities have passed LGBTQ-inclusive local nondiscrimination ordinances as of January 2022, including Carlisle, which passed its ordinance in December 2016.

Chambersburg became the first town in Pennsylvania to abolish an established nondiscrimination ordinance.

In response to Monday’s vote to repeal an LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance by Chambersburg Borough councilmembers, state Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, Brian Sims, D-Phila., and Sen. Katie Muth, D-Berks, all co-chairs of the LGBTQ+ Caucus, released the following statement:

“Last night, the Republican-led Chambersburg Borough Council committed a shameful action by repealing their local nondiscrimination ordinance. That vote was a dangerous step backwards and puts LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians in an extremely vulnerable position, eliminating their access to recourse if they are denied housing, education or public accommodations because of who they are or who they love."

In response to Chambersburg Borough Council's decision to repeal the ordinance, Chambersburg Mayor Kenneth Hock issued a nondiscrimination proclamation in its place.

The proclamation states:

"WHEREAS, in today's world, there are times that bigotry may occur on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, family status, veteran status, disability, marital status, or income status; and

WHEREAS, I request that all residents and visitors of the Borough of Chambersburg reject bigotry and discrimination against all individuals in any form or fashion and in any context, including employment, residential housing, and business transactions and sales; and

WHEREAS, strict adherence to the transcendent principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and equal protection will strengthen the Borough of Chambersburg as a community by deepening the bonds of the community and fostering a welcoming environment.

NOW THEREFORE, as Mayor of the Borough of Chambersburg, I declare that no resident or visitor of the Borough of Chambersburg (the "Borough") should be subjected to bigotry, discrimination, or oppression due to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, family status, veteran status, disability, marital status, or income status. All Borough residents and visitors should be treated with respect and dignity.

FURTHER, in the event that any resident or visitor of the Borough of Chambersburg is subjected to bigotry, discrimination, or oppression in the Borough the individual should seek resolution from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or any other existing agency with jurisdiction over the matter. I recommend that Borough staff be provided with information to direct members of the public to the appropriate agencies and authorities to report concerns regarding bigotry, discrimination, and oppression."

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