Just cause: Human rights should apply in Allegheny County
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A proposal for an Allegheny County human rights commission charged with preventing discrimination in employment, housing and other public accommodations has as its goal treating all people with dignity and respect.
Its intention is to assure equal opportunities for people regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation. But the last two categories of protection are expected to draw criticism when County Council holds a hearing on the measure tomorrow, not based on what is in the bill but on unfounded fears and prejudices against gays, lesbians, transsexuals and cross-dressers.
The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Amanda Green of Stanton Heights with co-sponsorship from seven of her colleagues, would establish a county Human Relations Commission, similar to the Pittsburgh commission that has jurisdiction within the city borders. It would hear complaints alleging discrimination in housing, employment and in the use of public accommodations.
The bill contains exceptions for private clubs and religious institutions, recognizing, for instance, that a church that does not condone homosexual behavior is not obliged to employ someone who disagrees with its views. It does not apply to individuals employed who live in the family home, such as a nanny, and it does not apply to businesses with fewer than four employees.
Similar laws are on the books in other Pennsylvania cities, but the protection it would afford individuals based on gender identity and sexual orientation are not included in state and federal law.
Any fair reading of the measure makes clear that it is not about condoning or condemning another person's lifestyle or behavior. Nor is it about preventing Boy Scouts from being able to go camping in public parks, as one organization is claiming in its material.
It is, as its name says, about human relations. We encourage County Council to enact it.
First Published January 14, 2009 12:00 am