Sparks fly over LGBTQ or­di­nance

Mayor, coun­cil mem­bers trade words as coun­cil ap­points mem­bers to new hu­man re­la­tions com­mis­sion

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Hey­man

What was, for most of its run Mon­day night, a breezy, light­hearted busi­ness meet­ing of bor­ough lead­ers ended on a shock­ingly tense note, with Mayor Nancy Guenst lash­ing out at Coun­cil­man Ge­orge For­geng and sug­gest­ing he re­sign over his on­go­ing crit­i­cism of the bor­ough’s new gay rights or­di­nance.

For­geng pre­vi­ously has been a vo­cal critic of the or­di­nance, which was ap­proved by the coun­cil in a tight 4-3 vote in May. For­geng was one of the three coun­cil mem­bers to vote against it, cit­ing re­li­gious ob­jec­tions in part. The other two no votes came from David Rich and Robert Hegele.

The or­di­nance makes it un­law­ful in Hat­boro to dis­crim­i­nate against a per­son in mat­ters of em­ploy­ment, hous­ing, com­mer­cial prop­erty ac­qui­si­tion and public ac­com­mo­da­tions on the ba­sis of that per­son’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or gen­der ex­pres­sion.

The or­di­nance’s pas­sage was a vic­tory for Guenst, in par­tic­u­lar, who had been cham­pi­oning a hu­man rights or­di­nance for the bor­ough for the last sev­eral years.

Mon­day’s meet­ing fea­tured the of­fi­cial ap­point­ment of mem­bers to the hu­man re­la­tions com­mis­sion, which was cre­ated by the new or­di­nance and tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaints. It was after the coun­cil’s ap­proval of the ap­point­ments — which was the fi­nal or­der of busi­ness on the agenda — and the call for ad­journ­ment that For­geng be­gan to speak out.

For­geng’s ad­dress cen­tered on how peo­ple with re­li­gious be­liefs, like him­self, are find­ing them­selves marginal­ized or forced to put aside their con­vic­tions, pre­sum­ably to ac­com­mo­date a more vis­i­ble LGBTQ agenda and new equal­ity mea­sures like the one in Hat­boro.

“I speak for peo­ple with re­li­gious be­liefs — you don’t leave your re­li­gious be­liefs be­hind. When you have a job or what­ever you do, they stay with you,” For­geng said.

It was when For­geng’s re­marks

moved into anatom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tions — stat­ing “just be­cause you put breasts on some­body, in my viewpoint, doesn’t make you a woman” — that the mayor snapped.

“I think you’re mak­ing a very in­sult­ing com­ment,” Guenst said. “This or­di­nance has passed, and we have granted our LGBTQ com­mu­nity, within the con­fines of our bor­ough, hu­man rights. And if you are so un­happy that this coun­cil voted for hu­man rights ...”

“I’m ex­press­ing my­self, OK,” For­geng in­ter­rupted.

“You have ex­pressed your­self,” Guenst said, with Fors­eng try­ing to in­ter­rupt her again. “For you to con­tinue car­ry­ing on this de­bate after this or­di­nance has been passed, I’m ask­ing for your res­ig­na­tion.”

At this point, coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bol­len­dorf asked the two to calm down.

“I think we’re able as hu­man be­ings to ex­press our­selves,” For­geng said. “I take a per­spec­tive that’s been around for hun­dreds of years.”

The meet­ing was then quickly ad­journed.

When asked im­me­di­ately after the meet­ing if she was se­ri­ous in sug­gest­ing For­geng re­sign, Guenst stopped short of giv­ing a yes or no an­swer, in­stead say­ing, “I don’t want him to make this a nor­mal part of the coun­cil meet­ings. We had this de­bate, and I do get fiery about it.

“He’s wast­ing the coun­cil’s time. He’s wast­ing the au­di­ence’s time. And I’ve

“This or­di­nance has passed, and we have granted our LGBTQ com­mu­nity, within the con­fines of our bor­ough, hu­man rights. And if you are so un­happy that this coun­cil voted for hu­man rights ....” — Mayor Nancy Guenst

had it up to here with it,” she added. “I re­spect him as a coun­cil per­son, and I re­spect him as a per­son. After be­ing in that chair for [six years], he knows proper pro­ce­dure. That was com­pletely un­called for.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Elle Anzinger said it is the job of coun­cil to rep­re­sent all peo­ple in the bor­ough, a point she made di­rectly to For­geng that night.

“We are a body of peo­ple that gov­erns ev­ery­one — of dif­fer­ent faiths, of dif­fer­ent col­ors and, yes, of dif­fer­ent ori­en­ta­tions,” she said.

Ab­sent from the meet­ing that night were coun­cil mem­bers Dave Stock­ton and Nicole Benjamin.

The coun­cil later re­leased the names of those who will be serv­ing on the new hu­man re­la­tions com­mis­sion. They are Jen­nifer Hawkins Cox, for a term of one year; Suella Guthrie, for a term of two years; Laura Lasher, for a term of two years; Luanne Kline, for a term of three years; and Kathy Lochel, for a term of three years.

Guenst said the coun­cil re­ceived nine ap­pli­ca­tions.

“It was not an easy choice to say the least,” she said. “All were won­der­ful can­di­dates. We were look­ing for some di­ver­sity and ended up with two Repub­li­cans, two Democrats and one busi­ness owner.”

That busi­ness owner is Kathy Lochel, who runs Lochel’s Bak­ery on South York Road.

The fol­low­ing is bi­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the other se­lected mem­bers, as pro­vided by the bor­ough:

Hawkins Cox is de­scribed as be­ing a val­ued mem­ber of the Hat­boro com­mu­nity and an ac­tive mother who sup­ports hu­man rights for its LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

Guthrie has been a res­i­dent of Hat­boro since 1972 and has worked with chil­dren for more than 20 years. She wants to serve on the com­mis­sion to en­sure all peo­ple have the same op­por­tu­nity to en­joy life in the bor­ough.

Lasher noted in her ap­pli­ca­tion that the LGBTQ com­mu­nity de­serves a re­spon­sive gov­ern­ment and qual­ity of ser­vices that can be achieved through the in­ter­est and ded­i­ca­tion of mem­bers of the com­mis­sion.

Kline is an ac­tive mem­ber of the Hat­boro com­mu­nity, cur­rently serv­ing on the plan­ning com­mis­sion. She is a past pres­i­dent of the Hat­boro li­brary.

Each mem­ber will be re­quired to un­dergo two days of manda­tory train­ing in the fall to serve on the com­mis­sion. The train­ing will be ad­min­is­tered by the county and will take place in Hat­boro.

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