Erie, Pa., has declared itself a sanctuary city for LGBTQ+ people.
The City Council adopted a resolution last month stating that the city “strongly supports the treatment of all individuals with respect and dignity, regardless of an individual’s race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, age, disability, source of income, marital status, and familial status, including but not limited to the areas of housing, public accommodation, education, healthcare, and employment,” and going on to note the large number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being considered in state legislatures around the nation, including three in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
If the state, Erie County, or the U.S. government passes any anti-LGBTQ+ law, “the Erie City Council urges the Police Chief to make enforcement their lowest priority,” the resolution goes on. It states the city’s commitment to human rights and access to health care, and concludes, “Be it finally resolved that the City of Erie be considered a safe place, a sanctuary, for LGBTQ+ individuals and families.”
The resolution was proposed by Councilwoman Susannah Faulkner, a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She has pointed out that other cities, such as Kansas City, Mo., and West Hollywood, have adopted sanctuary city policies. (In those cities, the most recent resolutions focused on transgender people, who are particularly under political attack.)
“I appreciate you all,” Faulkner said after the vote, according to the Erie Times-News. “This is something that is a movement. ... That is why I have chosen to be proactive instead of reactive in this moment.”
Pennsylvania is one of the most populous states without a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — and the only one in the Northeast. A bill that would add such a ban, House Bill 300, also known as the Fairness Act, has passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate, which has a Republican majority that might impede its passage. Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, supports the bill. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and a few other Pennsylvania cities have LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.
One Erie council member, Ed Brzezinski, suggested the sanctuary city resolution be put before voters, but the council did not agree. Faulkner told the Times-NewsBrzezinski had not consulted her about that, and she questioned if putting a question on the ballot would be feasible.
Erie saw some controversy over LGBTQ+ issues this year. Some residents complained about a display of LGBTQ-themed children’s books at the entrance to the children’s section at one of the city’s libraries. County officials, who run the library system, ordered that the display be taken down moved to a less prominent place. Administrators at the library decided to take down all displays, the Times-News reports.
The Erie Gay Newspraised Faulkner’s work on the resolution, with an article saying, “We are thankful to City Council Member Susannah Faulkner for her dedication to and collaboration with the LGBTQ+ citizens of Erie in advancing this resolution through Erie City Council.” The article also called for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians to “rally together in support of the Fairness Act.”