I received this press release and am publishing it here. But also wanted to add a note.

Cities, Counties and other municipalities across Pennsylvania are doing what the State should be doing: creating an environment where everyone feels safe at work, in regards to public accommodations, and housing. For almost 85% of Pennsylvanians, they can still be fired, denied housing, or public accommodations, simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This is unacceptable.
While we applaud Easton for this step towards fair treatment for all, we must also urge our state lawmakers to pass state-wide protections. Call, write, or visit your State Representative, and ask him or her to co=sponsor, support and vote for HB 300. If you are unsure how to work with your legislator, here is a guide I wrote that tells you everything you need to know.

 

Here is the press release:

May 25th, 2011, Easton, PA — A standing ovation concluded the vote of Easton City Council tonight as they unanimously endorsed legislation providing equal benefits to same sex partners of City staff. The ordinance, only the 5th in Pennsylvania, was sponsored by Councilperson Mike Fleck. Not one member of the public spoke against the ordinance. The ordinance will take effect on January 1st, and will join Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in providing same-sex benefits.

Pennsylvania Diversity Network’s Adrian Shanker and Liz Bradbury worked with Fleck for a year and half to prepare the legislation and garner support. Shanker stated, “I am so pleased by the unanimous and bipartisan support for relationship recognition for same sex couples in Easton. Easton now joins the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies in providing the best HR policies for their employees.”

Bradbury, who also worked in 2002 to pass Easton’s non-discrimination law, commented, “Easton has come a long way, and I am thrilled that I can recommend it as a progressive place to live or work for the LGBT community.”

Fleck introduced this ordinance because “[he] was elected to represent all the citizens of the West Ward, many of whom are LGBT and want to know that their City treats their community as equals.” The City of Easton is one of the few in the Commonwealth of PA that has an openly gay elected official, City Councilmember El Warner. Warner commented, “I am very proud of my colleagues on Council for coming together to pass this important Civil Rights bill. The time for it is now.” The legislation was strongly supported by Mayor Sal Panto.

Mayor Panto has scheduled a public ceremony to sign the legislation on June 6th at 12:30pm in Centre Square, Easton. Rain location is City Hall. Meanwhile, the neighboring City of Bethlehem, has scheduled a final vote on the proposed non-discrimination law on June 7th.

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Pennsylvania Diversity Network is the Lehigh Valley-based LGBT advocacy organization serving Northeast Pennsylvania. For more information, www.PADiversity.org

  • Felix Fisher

    Hey Tom,
    Nice post as usual. You’re right that this is something the whole state needs to be doing, but hopefully these small steps are what we need to really get the ball rolling… A county here, a city there, and suddenly people start seeing that letting us live together peacefully and share our health benefits with our loved ones doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Maybe when they realize that giving us the same rights everyone else has doesnt destroy any American families, they’ll shut and let us live our lives like normal people 🙂

    Thanks for posting!

    • Anonymous

      Totally agree with you Felix, that having cities and towns across the state take actions like these helps us get things going at the state level. Thanks for commenting!

  • Adrian Shanker

    Thanks, Thomas, for covering this! One clarification on your note — the non discrimination laws are a big issue — but what we did in Easton is more than that — it is actually a municipality recognizing same sex couples as equal, The path to marriage equality on the state level will happen when people see that local municipalities want it to happen!

    • Anonymous

      Adrian, thanks for adding the clarification. I didn’t make my point very well, but I was meaning that because there is no leadership for Equality coming from Harrisburg, local entities are taking the lead. Because we are so far behind (from the state POV), non-discrimination at the state level is the first big step forward that we need to be pushing for from Harrisburg.

      The movement to treat couples as equal is very connected and a part of the whole struggle to treat individuals as equal. When individuals can feel safe that they won’t be fired, refused a job, or housing or public accommodations because of who they are, then they will feel more free to allow their relationships to be visible to others, and expect those relationships  to be treated as equal.

      PA is a state where so many young and talented are leaving in droves, and a state with an aging elderly population. If we are to care for our current residents and build for the future, we must turn the brain drain around and make PA a state that young people and innovative companies want to come to and make PA their home. It is narrow-minded and short-sighted to make PA an unwelcoming place for those who appreciated full Equality. 

      It is useful that cities, towns, and other municipalities are able to look to the future and are today, creating a more welcoming place to live and work, but when a person can cross a city boundary and have less rights on one side of “the line” than on the other, this isn’t enough. We must push for equality at the state level, and the first step of that is HB 300.

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