Recently, a commenter on the blog called me “intellectually dishonest” and accused me of “dragging Sue (Kerr) through the mud.” This was in response to a post I wrote about what the candidates had to say during the Steel City Stonewall Democrats endorsement meeting.Â I addressed part of that complaint by posting a video of the event, andit shows Â Dan is saying exactly what I claimed he was saying. But at that point, I lacked the information to address the home rule issue. Despite her accusation, I didn’t know about this at the time of the meeting, or the next day when I wrote my blog post. But since, I’ve done some research.
It is true that Allegheny County is a home rule county, and therefor can more easily pass ordinances, but it is not quite true to suggest that because Montgomery County is not a home rule county that they can not have non-discrimination protections. Â For Mongomery County to have non-discrimination protections, it would take Joe Hoeffel forming a good coalition with one of the other two commissioners-something he has been unwilling or unable to accomplish. In fact, there have been discussions and work for quite a while in Montgomery County.Â Across the state, there is work being done in a number of counties towards county-wide non-discrimination protections, including York, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Montgomery.Â The claim that only home rule counties can have non-discrimination protections may be based on the fact that when the Allentown ordinance was under attack, it was upheld, in part because the city of Allentown is a home rule entity. But in reality, this does not demonstrate that non-home rule counties can not have these protections.
The commenter called the Allegheny County ordinance “long over due,” which is an important comment to consider especially when we are talking about Montgomery County, and the enactment of protections in general. The truth of the matter is that no one had ever asked the county to have non-discrimination protections until Kris Rust asked Amanda Green in June of 2008. This unfortunately says as much about the activist community than it says about our county government and the same may be true across most of the state. Â County protections have sprung up mostly in counties that surround cities where these protections already exist. Activists can generate these protections across the state by continuing to work to enact these protections at the city level and then calling for them at the county level. There are actually a number of cities around the commonwealth where discussions are ongoing about this issue.
The issue of what counties can and can not do because of the way they are structured isn’t very exciting stuff. But what is true is that real leaders look forward and continue to govern and mold these structures to best meet the needs of the residents who live there. Allegheny County wasn’t always a home rule county. But at one point our elected officials saw it as a step that would improve things for the residents here.Â There are reasons why counties might not want to be home rule counties. For example they may receive less support from the state.Â THes comment, “Montgomery Co. is NOT a home rule County, which means that they don’t have the authority to pass or enforce these laws” may be partially true. Partially, first because it hasn’t been tested in the courts. Partially, because non-home rule counties have different mechanisms that require several commissioners to work in coalition to accomplish goals. And lastly, partially, because it implies that the county is not capable of changing the way it is structured.
Montgomery County’s domestic partnership benefits are a bit of a red herring for Joe Hoeffel. He didn’t have much to do with getting these passed. He himself told me that his role was that he only advocated for it. Ruth Damsker was the liberal democrat commissioner who actually accomplished these rights. Hoeffel truly believes in full equality, but it has been other elected officials that have brought about rights for LGBT’s in Montgomery County.
I haven’t dragged Sue (Kerr) through any mud at all. She has made this a battle about what Montgomery County has that Allegheny County doesn’t as if that is all Dan Onorato’s fault, when it isn’t. It is a shame that Sue, who is such a feminist, is happy to give Hoeffel credit for something that Ruth Damsker’s leadership brought into actual being. But this isn’t about Sue or me. This needs to be about what is best for the residents of Pennsylvania!