Sparks fly over LGBTQ ordinance
Mayor, council members trade words as council appoints members to new human relations commission
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.