Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is currently debating a citywide ordinance that would make discrimination illegal in housing, employment, education, or public accomodation, and which includes specific protections for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. But fringe anti-gay hate groups are mobilizing their membership, hoping to make the ordinance ineffective in combating discrimination through sneaky amendments and back-door politics.
Bethlehem is currently the largest city in Pennsylvania without a non-discrimination ordinance – meaning that right now, because of the lack of LGBT protections in PA law, it’s perfectly legal for LGBT people to be denied housing, fired from their jobs, kicked out of restaurants, or harassed in public accommodations. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan wants to change that, pushing forward an ordinance that would protect everyone who lives or works in Bethlehem from discrimination.
“I think it sends a very clear message to people about Bethlehem that we're inclusive and we put a high value on human rights,” Mayor Callahan said, "this issue is about fairness and equal opportunity for our whole community."
Yet the American Family Association (AFA) and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown are pressuring City Council members to gut key protections from the legislation. These anti-gay groups are sending out misleading information, warning that the “gay lifestyle” will take over the city if this anti-discrimination effort moves forward, and imposing an overly-broad religious exemption, which in their words, would exempt about 50% of the City from the law.
Don’t let the AFA, the Catholic Diocese, and their extreme homophobic agenda win. Send Bethlehem City Council members a message now, letting them know that it’s time to demonstrate that Bethlehem is a city where all people are welcome and safe, and tell them to pass this ordinance with strong enforcement powers and narrow exemptions, so that the entire community can be protected.
Thank you for your stated support of the ordinance. Now I am asking that you vote against any attempts to weaken the ordinance through amendments seeking to remove the extended powers of the Human Relations Commission, and any other attempts at weakening the enforcement authority of the bill.
Secondly, I urge you to replace the overly-broad religious exemption which, as was stated during the last meeting, would exempt 50% of the City residents, with the constitutionally-sound religious exemption found in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
I wish to remind you that there is broad public support for this ordinance, with more than 100 local business, arts, labor and faith leaders in support of this effort. Please don't be swayed by the attempts to weaken civil rights through sneaky manuevers and back-door amendments. I urge you to support this ordinance, with a narrow religious exemption, and full enforcement powers, and send a message that Bethlehem is a welcoming community that values the civil rights of all citizens.
Don't let Bethlehem earn a statewide and national reputation as a place where discrimination can thrive because of the loopholes in your current version of the legislation. On June 7th, do the right thing and fix the bill before you vote on it!
Thank you for your time.