Upper Providence Township Building

The Upper Providence Township Building is located at 1286 Black Rock Road.

UPPER PROVIDENCE — Township supervisors will vote Sept. 21 on an ordinance that will create Upper Providence's first-ever Human Relations Commission.

The proposal was brought to the board by Supervisor Bill Starling, who was elected last year and campaigned on a platform that called for the creation of the commission.

"A lot of what's in the ordinance is already protected by state and federal law with the exception of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," Starling said.

He said the ordinance will also recognize the rights of those who use support animals, and their handlers, for protection against discrimination.

"We all want equal protection under the law, that's what we expect," said Starling.

That is not exactly what the Human Relations Commission will guarantee.

As the proposed ordinance is written, it will create a five-member commission of residents or business owners appointed by the supervisors with staggered three-year-terms "that will primarily be an arbitration board," Starling explained.

Anyone who brings a complaint to the board about discrimination either at work, in housing a business or some other public venue, will have their complaint investigated and hearings may be held on the matter.

"The commission will issue findings of fact, and advise on a resolution," he said.

But the ordinance does not give the commission any enforcement power. That lies with either the courts or Pennsylvania's Human Relations Commission.

"So if the parties don't agree, they will have to go to the courts or kick it up to the state," Starling explained.

"A lot of local governments surrounding us all have human relations commissions and I think we would all prefer that the state legislature pass a law that includes all these protections, but they haven't done that yet,"said Starling.

The ordinance does allow for some flexibility.

For example, all-male dorms are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex; and landlords who are renting rooms and sharing common living space with a tenant would be permitted to insist on someone of the same sex.

"I mostly had the LGBTQ-plus community in mind when I first proposed this months ago. I'm a white man and I guess I kind of naively didn't think about other groups being discriminated against because they were already protected," Starling said Friday.

"But now, with all that's happening in this country, it seems like a good time to make a statement as well," said Starling.

The Upper providence supervisors have made other statements this year.

In July, the board of supervisors also made a statement, like many municipalities in Montgomery County, by issuing a letter condemning a public statement made by county Commissioner Joe Gale that called the Black Lives Matter movement "urban terrorists."

"The township prides itself on the diversity of its citizens and residents, and the harmonious relations which have been fostered in the township by a widely practiced and recognized attitude of respect among all citizens of the township," reads the prologue to the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing at the next Upper Providence Township Supervisors meeting at the township building on Black Road Road on Monday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

However, public participation is only allowed online due to coronavirus social distancing protocols.

The link for participating in the meeting will be posted on the township website — www.uprov-montco.org — prior to the meeting.

The ordinance, a draft copy of which is attached to the agenda for the Aug. 17 supervisors meeting on the township website, may well be adopted that same night.

"I've spoken with all the supervisors, Democrats and Republicans, and none of them have a problem with it," Starling said. "It's not a partisan thing, it's just something we should do."

comments powered by Disqus