Lebanon council won't create anti-discrimination Human Relations Commission

Written by Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News | Aug 27, 2018 5:16 AM

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon city council. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News.)

(Lebanon) -- The Lebanon City Council is expected to pass a resolution Monday night opposing discrimination - but it won't create an anti-discrimination human relations commission, despite the wishes of a former council candidate.

Royal Marti - who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the city council in 2017 - started the conversation with a petition that he described on Facebook in June as urging the council to pass an "Anti LGBTQ discrimination ordinance." He told the council in July that he would like the city to create its own human relations commission.

About 18 percent of municipalities in Pennsylvania have a human relations commission, according to Mayor Sherry Capello. Their powers can range from education and outreach to holding hearings and issuing orders and penalties if illegal discrimination is found.

Several Lebanon council members, however, said at a meeting Thursday afternoon that since the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission already exists to interpret and enforce complex anti-discrimination statutes, creating a local commission would simply be reinventing the wheel.

"I certainly don't want to see the city try to establish a bureaucracy that duplicates something that the state's doing 30 miles away, and probably wouldn't be doing it as well," councilman Wiley Parker said. "I think we would actually probably be doing a disservice to the citizens of Lebanon if we tried to establish this."

Councilman Joe Morales said many communities who have their own commissions ultimately refer cases to the state commission anyway.

Marti did not attend Thursday's meeting, and did not return a Facebook message requesting comment.

While the council balked at creating a new commission, it did appear prepared to pass an anti-discrimination resolution.

The draft resolution states that it is the policy of Lebanon to promote equal opportunity in employment and housing and public accommodation for all "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression[,] familial status, marital status, age, veteran status, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids." It then instructs citizens who believe they have been discriminated against to contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Several council members, including Parker and Morales, indicated support for the resolution Thursday. None expressed opposition.

"I think it's the intent of the resolution that all persons be treated fairly and equally and, again, that we don't want anyone to be discriminated against," Capello said.

At Parker's request, language will be added to the resolution to designate Lebanon's department of administration as the portion of city government that would facilitate referrals to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission when the city receives concerns about discrimination.

The council is expected to vote on the resolution at its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Monday.

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