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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bethlehem Civil Rights Ordinance - the Sequel

In a special meeting lasting all of forty minutes before a handful of supporters, Bethlehem City Council on July 1 passed its anti-discrimination ordinance, establishing a Human Relations Commission with sweeping subpoena powers.
Again.

It first passed on June 21, but a sequel was needed because of what Council President Bob Donchez called a "procedural error." Council forgot to vote on a motion to reconsider one of numerous amendments to the proposed law, but then went ahead with several more amendments and a final ballot on the ordinance as amended.

"We are aware that we can make mistakes, and that's OK, because they can all be corrected," said Council member Gordon Mowrer, leading everyone in prayer. "Bless the power of Bethlehem."

Allentown Human Relations Commission member Adrian Shanker, one of the driving forces behind this law, told Council there was widespread support from South Side Film Festival, ArtsQuest, 13 labor unions, 40 Bethlehem businesses and 25 religious leaders, including the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley. He added that American Family Association, which opposes this law, is listed as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  He acknowledged that the Allentown Diocese of the Catholic Church also has reservations, but only to portions of the law.

Shanker forgot to list Bethlehem resident Gertrude Reif, who followed him. "I believe in the Bible and what the Bible teaches," she said, claiming she is opposed to any sexual activity outside of "traditional marriage," and would refuse to rent to a person with a different view.
.
"I just hope everyone understands these expanded procedures, what we're wishing for here," stated Council member David DiGiacinto. But his colleague, Karen Dolan, disagreed. "Sometimes, you do have to subpoena, you do have to use the full force of law. Some people need to be punished," she argued.

Council voted exactly as they did on June 21. They unanimously approved this "Civil Rights" law, which specifically protects gays, lesbians and transgenders. Only DiGiacinto and Council members Eric Evans and Jean Belinski supported an amendment to eliminate "special powers."  Only DiGiacinto, Evans and Donchez supported the religious exemption offered by the Catholic Church. Remaining members supported a more narrow religious exemption that parallels state law.

After the vote, Council was chided by Bethlehem resident Dana Grubb, not for their vote, but for the extra meeting. "During the course of this debate, we had a Mayor get up and whisper into a Council person's ear, we've had a number of sidebar discussions while other people are speaking. Bethlehem City Council can do better, should do better. I believe it's rude to the speaker when other discussions are going on. If it can't be said publicly, it shouldn't be said at all. You are our elected officials."

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

We are a Nation of Laws, not of men. the Constitution trumps the Bible, thank God!!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to marry my hamster and file taxes jointly. Marriage now means whatever twisted concept some special interest group can conjure. If you call a dog's tail a leg how many legs does the dog have? Four. You can call the tail whatever you wish and it will never be a tail. So to with homosexuals and marriage.

Zorn said...

Dolan's comments shows how power hungry she is. You are wrong BO big brother isn't watching - BIG SISTER IS.

Anonymous said...

"Karen Dolan, [said,] "Sometimes, you do have to subpoena, you do have to use the full force of law. Some people need to be PUNISHED." Emphasis added.

Ah, Bethlehem will now have it's own version of the Salem Witch Trials.

Anonymous said...

The founding fathers of Bethlehem, those Christian God-fearing Moravians, must be turning in their graves...especially the ones that lived in the Brethren's House...you know, where all those sweaty men lived together and no women were allowed, all those men eating and drinking and sewing and cooking together, bathing in the creek together...sharing beds, there in the Brethren's House....no women....Well, the women in the Sister's House where no men were allowed. THEY are turning in their graves...those women, sharing beds together, eating, drinking, bathing, no men allowed...and um...hmm...never mind. Maybe they're not turning in their graves after all now that I think about it...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Council member Gordon Mowrer is the retired Pastor at Moravian Advent Church. I am just a sinner. But I thought his prayer was disturbing. He seems to think that, in addition to God, we all must worship Bethlehem. "Bless the power of Bethlehem?" That was a tad weird.

Anonymous said...

Did you say amen?

Seamus

Anonymous said...

This fiasco is the very definition of legislative busy work, solving a problem that doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Suffering Karen Dolan is punishment enough.

Zorn said...

vote the elitist dolan out

Anonymous said...

Scary that she teaches our children.

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes, you do have to subpoena, you do have to use the full force of law. Some people need to be PUNISHED."

Hmm, kind of like the Nazi troops "punished" the Jewish people. That really makes plenty of sense in this country since we don't have seperation of powers or something that specifies one is innocent until proven guilty.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Did you say amen?"

Seamus, I am on bad terms with most people down here. Do you think it improves above?

Laura Degalarce said...

dolan has played the race card, the female card and the religion card over the years thus proving her foolishness and own prejudices. vote her out so she can shave her head and join the nazi party.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, this vote appears to be what most Bethlehemites wanted. I disagree with Karen and the rest of Council on this one, but they may be right. Many members of the gay and lesbian community think this is very important, and I respect their experiences.

Ashad Fijahd said...

Well let's just hope no Arabs come up before dolan's commision. Right or wrong they won't stand a chance.

Isa Shapiro said...

Bo, come on - most bethlehemites don't even know who their so called reps are or what they stand for. Only the elite know the truth and they either hide from it or go along so they won't be kicked out of the club

Bernie O'Hare said...

My sense is that most Bethlehemites would support this, even if they do not know the details. I could be wrong, but there was very little opposition.

Anonymous said...

Majority of Bethlehem? Yeah right. Put it to referendum. Bet it'd lose.

A distinct minority of the population gives a damn about this. Everyone else has bigger problems to worry about.

twinkletoes said...

People didn't speak out because they get labeled by the gay and lesbian community as homophobes, racists, etc.

Some people did in fact stand up and make a rational non hateful case for why the law should not have been passed. They were called "breeders" (that is about the same as calling a black person the 'N word') by some lesbians, other speakers were mocked, others were openly laughed at for expressing their religious views.

If you ask me, the people who need protection are those who actually contribute to society instead of those who do nothing but want more special treatment. Then mock those who give it to them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My brother has religious convictions in opposition to the gay lifestyle. I do not share his views, but he has a right to express his beliefs, which are based on his religious convictions. He was called a "knuckledragger."

Karen Dolan said...

If you drive 80 mph after guzzling a fifth of vodka, run a red light, and get stopped by a cop, you will have to go to court and you will be punished, at least you should be. That's not Nazi Germany or Salem, Mass.; it's reality almost everywhere in the civilized world.
I made my comment because although all members of council wanted an ordinance that made it illegal to discriminate in matters of housing and employment, some members only wanted a "positive" ordinance. They didn't think words like "subpoena belong in a Bethlehem ordinance." That's a quote from a well-meaning councilperson with whom I disagreed.
Although punishment (fines, community service, restitution) is almost never needed to resolve discrimination charges on a local level, it helps to put the force of law behind an ordinance so people take it seriously enough to sit down, talk, and come up with a solution.

Karen Dolan said...

Laura,

Seriously? I "played" the race card because I am white, the female card because I have a gender, and the religion card because -- why? -- my Dad was Irish Catholic and my Mom was a Jew? AND, I should shave my head and become a Nazi?
Are you for real, and if you are, what are you talking about?

Karen