Meadville Tribune

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May 14, 2014

Group assembled to work for policies to fight discrimination in Meadville

MEADVILLE — For Meadville City Councilmember Bob Langley, the time is now to establish a human relations commission in Meadville.

“So many communities in Pennsylvania already have this,” Langley told the Tribune during a recent interview. Erie County, which includes the City of Erie, already has it — and has had it for a decade. Ditto for Pittsburgh, which passed its first non-discrimination law in 1992 and the surrounding Allegheny County, whose non-discrimination law has been in place since 2009. Altogether, a total of 12 of the state’s 15 largest cities and at least 20 smaller towns have included non-discrimination in their municipal codes.

Meadville, however, would become one of the first communities along the corridor between Erie and Pittsburgh to establish a human relations commission, should the decision be made to proceed.

“This is a hard discussion to have, but it’s part of the discussion the city wants to have,” Langley explained, noting that discussions about non-discrimination will be included during upcoming negotiations with city employees. “It tells people who are coming to shop in Meadville that they’re safe here. They can work here, shop here, live here.”

While the effort to bring a non-discrimination policy to Meadville has gained and lost and gained momentum over the years, interest is once again on the rise and a committee of local residents has been formed to ask the city to enact a comprehensive non-discrimination policy that would establish a human relations commission to investigate alleged discrimination.

Meadville resident Elizabeth Spadafore, a member of the committee, agrees that the time has come. “Communities around us have enacted these policies,” she told the Tribune. “We’d like to make Meadville competitive with other cities around us — make it a friendlier place to live, work and raise a family.”

Plans now call for a letter to be presented to City Council prior to its June 4 study session, which begins at 4:15 p.m. in the City Building on Diamond Park, and for a representative of the committee to address council during the session.

According to Langley, who has been working informally with the committee, the ordinance enacted by Doylestown Borough in 2010 might serve as an appropriate model. The ordinance begins with the statement that “In order to ensure that all persons, regardless of actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and are afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing and the use of public accommodations, and to have equal access to post-secondary educational institutions, it is necessary that appropriate legislation to be enacted.”

The first chapter of the ordinance also notes, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as supporting or advocating any particular doctrine, position, point of view, lifestyle or religious view. To the contrary, it is the intention of this chapter that all persons be treated fairly and equally and it is the express intent of this chapter to guarantee fair and equal treatment under the law to all people of the Borough.”

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