History of SARA Pennsylvania
To expand employment, housing, and public accommodations protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians, local community leaders have been spearheading the adoption of municipal nondiscrimination ordinances in Pennsylvania since the late 1970s. With now 43 ordinances enacted in small towns and large cities across Pennsylvania, our state has the most local nondiscrimination ordinances ever enacted by one state. As of January 2013, the Human Rights Campaign reports there are 166 local nondiscrimination ordinances in the United States inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Every nondiscrimination ordinance in Pennsylvania is inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Most all of the efforts to adopt these local nondiscrimination ordinances were isolated in their organizing. In many cases, local community leaders or government officials learned that discrimination against LGBT people was perfectly legal under Pennsylvania and federal law – and became frustrated with the state legislature’s inaction on this issue. Sometimes, highly visible cases of discrimination against LGBT people were brought to the local spotlight and community advocates took action to draft and have the ordinances passed.
Until 2010, almost all the ordinances that were adopted were in large urban centers. During that summer, a great deal of media attention was generated about the advocacy in Lower Merion Township, a suburb of Philadelphia, whose Board of Commissioners was on the verge of adopting a nondiscrimination ordinance. Community advocates began to contact each other across the Main Line and greater suburban area of Philadelphia about beginning a regional movement to adopt nondiscrimination ordinances. This new independent group, “Suburban Equality” began regular meetings in the Summer of 2010 in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. After several months of meeting in Lower Merion, the gatherings rotated between several other towns. At these meetings, community leaders helped each other strategize and in the process involved dozens of advocates and government officials.
Over the next two years, 12 more non-discrimination ordinances were passed in Pennsylvania. Most of them draw their roots to the meetings of Suburban Equality and the network of advocates that formed in 2010. Several large organizations have since claimed credit for the passage of these ordinances in the media, inferring they somehow ‘partnered’ with many of our groups by issuing a press release following the passage of an ordinance. However, these local initiatives were completed by local leaders, independent of a state or national group’s agenda.
A logical step for Suburban Equality was to form an accessible clearinghouse of information on all the ordinances that have been adopted in Pennsylvania. In order to preserve this history, we have created this website and are actively growing the movement of local advocacy for nondiscrimination ordinances across Pennsylvania. We hope that SARA Pennsylvania will help you learn the truth of how we organized in our hometowns to protect all members of our communities from discrimination.
If you have been involved in one of these ordinances, we welcome you to provide information to add to the website. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the community you are contributing on behalf of, how you were involved, and the information you would like to share.
If you are interested in starting local community organizing to support the adoption of a local nondiscrimination ordinance in Pennsylvania, please email us at email@example.com and a member from our response team will be in touch with you.
Jason Landau Goodman (Lower Merion, PA)
Jason Landau Goodman became the founder and Chair of Equality Lower Merion in 2009, when he began the work for Lower Merion Township to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance. He is currently a law student at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, he is the founding Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, PA’s first and only statewide LGBT youth organization. He has been a leader in the statewide movement of LGBT youth for over seven years as the first person to work directly and specifically with LGBT youth on the statewide level in Pennsylvania.