WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – 22-year-old Wilkes-Barre Councilwoman Beth Gilbert has only been in office since January. She found out the Diamond City did not have an anti-discrimination ordinance on the books protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “I was very surprised. I thought it was interesting that of all the groups that weren’t protected, the LGBT community was one of them.” she said.
Currently, Pennsylvania provides no anti-discrimination protection for LGBT individuals from being fired from their jobs, from being denied housing or from being denied services. “It’s very troubling especially when polls show the majority of Pennsylvanians are in support of this kind of legislation,” said NEPA Rainbow Alliance Co-Chair Carl Halkyer.
With no state or federal anti-discrimination protection, LGBT rights are left to individual municipalities. Only about three dozen in Pennsylvania have such a law on the books and only Scranton, Pittston and Dickson City are among them in NEPA. LGBT advocate Dee Culp worked with Ms. Gilbert in crafting the proposed ordinance. “This is us saying you can’t discriminate against us as people. You can’t do this. We need to fix these gaps,” said Ms. Culp while Ms. Gilbert added, “Actually, our ordinance was pretty prehistoric. When you look at it we didn’t have a lot of protection for a lot of different groups.”
Ms. Gilbert’s proposed ordinance would also protect veterans, older citizens and even service animals from discrimination. Word of the proposed legislation comes as the local LGBT community prepares to gather for an annual celebration. Pridefest has been held in Pittston and Wilkes-Barre in years past. It will be held this Friday at Montage Mountain Water Park in Scranton. It’s events like this that LGBT advocates say help gain support for anti-discrimination measures. “The more people you know who are LGBT, the more likely the overall public opinion is going to change,” said Mr. Halkyer.
The LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance will be introduced August 11th at the Wilkes-Barre City Council meeting. If it passes its first reading, it will get a second reading in September. If approved then, the ordinance would become law ten days later.