Challenge to Allentown's Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Ordinance adding the categories "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as prohibited bases of discrimination

Court/Assoc.: Commonwealth Court

Attorneys/Firms: Ed Posner, Drinker, Biddle & Reath; Mary Catherine Roper

In 2002, Allentown adopted an ordinance adding the categories "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as prohibited bases of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. A group of rental property owners, taxpayers and a business operator filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance on two grounds: 1) that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act preempted the ordinance; and 2) that the ordinance violated Allentown's authority under Pennsylvania's Home Rule Law.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania, along with the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, represented a large group of friends of the court (amici curiae) who wanted to see the Allentown Ordinance upheld.

In August 2005 the Commonwealth Court upheld the Allentown Ordinance, finding that the ordinance was not in violation of the Home Rule Law and was not preempted by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The Commonwealth Court also recognized the inherent power of municipalities to adopt anti-discrimination laws.

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