Prosecute the torture.

June 28, 2009

Allegheny Council Human Relations Ordinance

Curious email/text message floating around (don't know if you've received it yet). Here's the text I got:
Onorato. 4123506500. Remove language from Human Relations ordinance that allows orgs that get County funding to discriminate. 100 calls on Mo
A bit too cryptic for me, but then again I am middle-aged, balding and paunchy - I know I'm no Helmholtz Watson, but I fear I am actually Bernard Marx - (and a brave new donut to you if you get the literary reference). It took me a few minutes to figure out the text message was from Sue Kerr over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. At her blog, there's a fuller version of the text:
Call 412-350-6500. Ask Onorato to remove language from the proposed Human Relations Ordinance that allows organizations receiving County funding to discriminate.
What's this "Human Relations Ordinance" then? If you're looking to read some legislative prose, here it is. The Stonewall Democrats have been kind enough to post the entire text.

Hey, did you know that today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots? Frank Rich has an interesting take.

Anyway, here's the language Sue referenced:
For the purposes of this Article, the definition of "employer" shall not include any religious organization, regardless of number of employees or County funding, provided that such religious organization provides documentary evidence of its religious nature to the Human Relations Commission of the County of Allegheny, and avers in writing to the Commission that gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitute grounds for employment decisions under the fundamental tenets of the religion in question. Documentary evidence of an entity's religious nature may consist of articles of incorporation, a charter or other foundational document for the entity, documentary evidence of tax-exempt status as a religious institution under §501 of the Internal Revenue Code or any other applicable Pennsylvania or federal law, or any other documentary evidence deemed sufficient by the Commission.
So my reading is that any employer that meets the above criteria (a religious organization - even those getting County funding - that takes matters of gender, orientation, etc, into its employment decisions) are are exempt, for instance, from the following provision:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual's race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or place of birth, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, familial status,age or use of a guide or support animal because of blindness, deafness or physical disability of any individual or independent contractor or because of the disability of an individual with whom the person is known to have an association.
The ACLU offers up an analysis at Sue's blog. Here's some:
As written, Section 215-31(H)(1) exempts from the ordinance those religious organizations that "aver" in writing to the Commission that gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitute grounds for employment decisions under the fundamental tenets of the religion in question.” Accordingly, the ordinance would allow a religious organization that considers gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be grounds for employment decisions based on its tenets to discriminate in its hiring on any basis, including race and disability. Conversely, a religious organization that does not consider gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be grounds for employment decisions would not be permitted to discriminate in its hiring on any of the protected categories identified in the ordinance, including race, color, religion,national origin or ancestry, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, familial status, and age. This language provides a benefit to some religions — those whose beliefs require that they consider gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity in making employment decisions — that is not provided to religions whose beliefs do not require that they base employment decisions on such criteria by exempting the former from the ordinance’s nondiscrimination provisions while requiring the latter to abide by them.
It's a tricky bit of legalese, but I think I bolded out the important part.

On the one hand, I am all for the separation of church and state (big fan. Big BIG fan if it) so if a private religious organization wants to discriminate, it has every right to - the state has no authority to force a church to do something against its collective will. But once that organization is on the receiving end of public funding, the law should accompany that funding, right? If, in this case, the County holds that an employer can not discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity and so forth, then that should hold for all the organizations receiving funding from the county. If not then we're all contributing to the discrimination (by way of our taxes) of some of our fellow citizens (who, by the way, are also contributing).

It seems very simple to me. What part of this am I missing?

7 comments:

Bram Reichbaum said...

There was another excellent story in the Times about what's going on within Democratic politics here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/us/28stonewall.html.

In my view it's one thing if you'd like to be privately religious, but if you're going to go around employing people or renting property to people, you need to have some bedrock deference for civil rights. Life, liberty and happiness are awfully hard to pursue without a roof over one's head and a job, and not all portions of Allegheny County and Pennsylvania are as densely packed with housing and employment opportunities as the City of Pittsburgh.

Infinonymous said...

This is a circumstance in which the Republican policy leanings of some of the region's ostensibly Democratic public officials will be important.

Bitter Clinger said...

The FEDERAL Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits discrimination based upon based on an individual's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability and retaliation for reporting and/or opposing a discriminatory practice. Your puisne county will not change Federal labor law. Where did you get that ACLU lawyer anyway, India?

An African post colonial Marxist might say that I am bitter and cling to my guns and religion because of a lack of government help. But he would be wrong. My animosity against people who are stupid, irresponsible, and lazy comes from watching them root across the American landscape like pigs after my tax dollars, producing nothing and consuming everything, destroying us all.

Bram Reichbaum said...

You have a problem with these "lazy" people trying to work for you and pay rent to you? It seems like they are ready to toil and produce like good capitalists, but those who discriminate are arbitrarily preventing them from doing so. You should be thrilled about this as a believer in the free market and as an Allegheny County resident.

County governments are always free to expand upon what is not addressed in Federal law, when they are not explicitly prohibited from doing so.

EdHeath said...

@BC, you did not mention a prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation. Further, I suspect that Federal law is limited, at least as a practical matter, to that which is explicitly supported by Federal dollars (Federal employment, construction or supported research program). The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is an example of discrimination (against gays) still not only permitted but codified by Congress.

Further, I challenge you to give me one example of a Federal program that gives monetary support to homosexuals. I challenge you to give me some proof that gays are “stupid, irresponsible, and lazy”. And I would like some proof that gays are “producing nothing and consuming everything, destroying us all.” (You do know what the post was about, right?),

Finally, I find it ironic that people who still drive SUV’s and/or pickups, support petroleum based factory farms by consuming red meat, burn electricity inefficiently by using incandescent bulbs, oppose universal healthcare, oppose any kind of reasonable gun control and oppose any kind of effort to narrow the gap between rich and poor would say anything about poor people “producing nothing and consuming everything, destroying us all.”. Or am I misjudging you? As Michael Jackson said, it’s time to start with the man in the mirror.

Maria said...

How much you want to bet that BC is a big believer in states rights/local govt as the decider when it comes to everything else?

Eric Williams said...

"I am all for the separation of church and state (big fan. Big BIG fan if it) so if a private religious organization wants to discriminate, it has every right to - the state has no authority to force a church to do something against its collective will. But once that organization is on the receiving end of public funding, the law should accompany that funding, right?"

Indeed. Take the king's money; dance to the king's tune.

"In my view it's one thing if you'd like to be privately religious, but if you're going to go around employing people or renting property to people, you need to have some bedrock deference for civil rights."

Humbug. Either we're free to do what we will with our property - including selling it, renting it, and offering employment to make products or provide services with it - to people as we please, or we aren't. True respect for property rights includes non-interference with discrimination, just as true respect for free speech includes non-interference with vulgar or heinous statements.