YARDLEY BOROUGH >> Yardley Borough on March 6 became the fifth Bucks County municipality to adopt an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.
In a unanimous vote and without any fanfare, the borough council followed the lead of Doylestown, New Hope, Newtown and Bristol boroughs in approving the new law which extends protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“The passage of this without any opposition and in a unanimous bipartisan manner I believe speaks to where we are as a community,” said Council Vice President David Bria, following the vote.
“In spite of how much I want to celebrate,” he continued, “the best thing is that this was treated as a matter of routine business with very little fanfare. The council was in agreement. The mayor was in agreement. The community was in agreement. It was just a matter of getting it done. I’m very proud of how little fanfare there was.”
The ordinance, modeled after the Doylestown law, was brought to the table by Bria who started looking into the issue during his campaign for council last year.
“I thought it was a need. I thought it was something we should do here. I’d also like to see other municipalities doing this,” he said.
The local ordinance, said Bria, would cover a loophole in the federal and state civil rights laws where, depending upon the interpretation of the law by the President and Governor, protections may or may not be afforded to the LGBT community.
“With the changeover in the presidency a lot of those enforcements were walked
back,” said Bria. “In Pennsylvania we’re still in pretty good shape with Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro. My thought was that if we have the ability to pass an ordinance and make it a local law we should do that and not just rely on who’s in higher office to interpret it.”
The ordinance, which pretty much parallels the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, establishes the Yardley Borough Human Relations Commission, a local body that will hear complaints from anyone who feels they have been discriminated against and attempt to resolve the issues.
“If someone does have a complaint, they can come to our commission in Yardley Borough rather than do it through the state, which would take much, much longer,” said Bria. “This provides a local mechanism that mirrors what’s already in place at the state level.”
Right now, if a resident feels discriminated against, Bria said their only option would be to take their complaint to the state’s human relations commission. But Bria said state law “doesn’t explicitly state that if you have a complaint as a member of the LGBT community that you have any standing there. That’s why this ordinance is so important.”
In addition to extending protections, the borough’s ordinance includes a ban on conversion therapy for minors under the age of 18, whereas Pennsylvania law does not.
Doylestown recently amended its ordinance to include the same ban, said Bria, adding that there aren’t many municipalities in Pennsylvania that have that clause.
Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual interventions. It is banned in nine states including New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, California and Oregon.
The next step in the process, said Bria, will be the official formation of the commission, which will have either three or five members interviewed and appointed by council.
“We’d like to see a healthy mix on there so we will be looking for residents and business owners interested in serving,” said Bria. Members must either be residents or work full-time in the borough, according to the ordinance.
Anyone who is interested may pick up an application at the borough hall, 56
South Main Street. Completed applications along with resumes should be returned to borough hall for consideration by council.
In other borough news, council approved permits for the following special events:
- Yardley Borough Easter Egg Hunt sponsored by the Yardley Borough Recreation Board. This year’s event returns to Buttonwood Park on Saturday, March 24 beginning at 11 a.m.
- Yardley Walk 2 Run sponsored by the Yardley Borough Recreation Board. The group will meet Tuesday evenings from April 10 to May 29 to train for this year’s 10th Annual Yardley 5K Race on Sunday, June 3. Participants will meet at 6 p.m. in Buttonwood Park.
- The 11th Annual Yardley Beer Fest sponsored by the Yardley Business Association. The event takes place on June 2 at FitzGerald Field on South Bell Avenue. Council also approved a banner, which will hang over South Main Street from May 21 to June 4, promoting the event. INFO: YardleyBeerfest.com