County to host forum for anti-discrimination bill

By Becky Reiser

‘ ‘ ‘ As Allegheny County gears up to vote on a new civil rights law, an interest group from… ‘ ‘ ‘ As Allegheny County gears up to vote on a new civil rights law, an interest group from outside the area is rallying to fight it. ‘ ‘ ‘ The Allegheny County Council will hold a public hearing Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. at the Allegheny Courthouse on Grant Street Downtown to debate the bill, which protects individuals against discrimination within the county. ‘ ‘ ‘ If passed, the bill would protect against prejudice in business, employment or housing on the basis of ‘color, religion, national origin, ancestry or place of birth, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, age or use of a guide or support animal because of blindness, deafness or physical disability,’ according to the County Council description of the bill. The bill would also provide a means to resolve conflicts of this nature. ‘ ‘ ‘ While the city of Pittsburgh already has a similar law in place, individuals are not necessarily protected outside of city limits. ‘ ‘ ‘ The American Family Association of Pennsylvania, an interest group based outside of Allegheny County that calls itself a ‘statewide traditional values group,’ opposes the bill. The group has vowed to speak out on the ordinance, which would enable people to buy houses, use bathrooms or become employed while being protected from discrimination by law. ‘ ‘ ‘ The organization, which is based in Franklin, Pa., nicknamed the bill an ‘Ordinance to Allow Men in Women’s Shower Facilities,’ according to a news release, and it disagrees that the ordinance should include the phrase ‘sexual orientation or gender identification.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ The president of the association, Diane Gramley, said in a news release that the American Family Association said the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities were discriminated against because of their beliefs. ‘ ‘ ‘ Nikolai Condee-Padunov, the political action chair of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, said he believes that the group is trying to restrict citizens’ rights, even if it does not directly affect them. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Look at the Mormons in Utah who spoke out about Proposition 8 in California. It’s an external force trying to localize an issue,’ said Condee-Padunov. ‘ ‘ ‘ Although Pittsburgh and Philadelphia residents are protected under their city’s human right laws, currently Allegheny County and other regions across Pennsylvania are not. ‘ ‘ ‘ Connecticut is currently considering a statewide non-discriminatory law, while California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island currently have similar laws in place. ‘ ‘ ‘ People who wish to give their opinion of the bill must register 24 hours prior to the meeting with chief clerk John Mascio. Each registered speaker will be allowed three minutes.