Pass an Ordinance in Your Hometown

The advocacy to have a local government adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance is an important action toward protecting all members of your community – and promoting the common good. Nondiscrimination policies are good for business and help to attract the best and brightest to your town. It sets an important social standard that everyone is welcome to call your community a home, without the fear of being kicked out of their house because of who they are.

Advocacy for nondiscrimination protections is different in every community.

With dozens of examples of ordinances and how local municipalities adopted them, we hope this website will provide a platform for education before you begin your advocacy. The below steps are provided only for guidance. Every community is different – however, the following actions have been key elements of many adopted nondiscrimination ordinances in Pennsylvania.

1. Know the Issue and the History of Adopted Nondiscrimination Ordinances in PA
Whether you are a local government official or civil rights advocate, the most important steps in beginning this process include knowing your community leaders and where they are on this issue. The ordinances that have been successful involved months of preparation with local government officials who will be voting on an ordinance.

2. Contact Your Local Government Officials
First, we encourage you to write or call key members of your local government board or council. Upon connecting with them about the importance of this issue, and providing them examples of adopted ordinances in Pennsylvania, they can ask your local solicitor about drafting an ordinance for your municipality.

3. Establish a Timeline
It can be very important to work with an established timeline that the commissioners, supervisors, or council members you are working with lay out for the ordinance. They may know best on how to get an ordinance adopted.

4. Begin Community Advocacy Outreach
How much you engage with building community support and issue statements to the media is entirely dependent on your community. Some progressive communities may not need large-scale organizing to get a unanimous vote, as the government officials understand the importance of the ordnance and just have to work out the language. In more conservative communities, widespread coalition building between civic associations and political organizations may need to be done. There are many examples of local campaign groups forming to support ordinances – several of which you can find profiled on this website.

5. Have the Nondiscrimination Ordinance Drafted and Introduced; Find Key Residents to Testify in Support
Once an ordinance has been drafted and introduced, it can be important to have strong testimonies delivered in support of the ordinance at public comment periods during local government meetings. We suggest you have at least five strong community members to speak to discrimination they faced and/or residents and business owners who can speak to why a nondiscrimination ordinance is critical.

6. Maintain Local Control of Messaging and Advocacy
Many local advocates have found larger state and national groups inserting themselves into nondiscrimination ordinance advocacy problematic. At times, government officials or those opposed to the ordinance can become apprehensive at their presence and perceive them as outsiders projecting an agenda on their community.

7. Support Local Government Officials Toward Final Ordinance Adoption
Work with your local community and government leaders toward the final adoption of the ordinance. It may take less than six months – or even over a year, but the work toward its adoption will be worth it.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly continues to fail to act on nondiscrimination protection for LGBT people. It may be another five or ten years before Pennsylvania sees movement on a statewide nondiscrimination law. Until then, we can take action to end legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – one community at a time.

For more information on best practices for nondiscrimination ordinance advocacy, please email