Community, council divided over anti-discrimination bills

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Community members clashed at the Johnstown City Council meeting Wednesday night, over two proposed anti-discrimination bills.

“If you push this thing through tonight, you’re going to start a war here that you don’t want,” said one Johnstown resident.

As written, Bills 5 and 6 protect people from discrimination based on race, sex and religion, but specifically include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The council passed Bill 6, which covers hiring practices within the city, but voted to table Bill 5 because of confusion over who and what it protects at general public locations: specifically, bathroom rights for transgender people and church hiring practices.

Currently, there are no statewide or local laws that include protections for the general public from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic said he’s glad the council held off on a decision. 

“I think there were a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of the issues in that bill are before the federal level right now. So with the change in president and Congress, we’re looking to make sure we’re going to comply with whatever the feds change and not put ourselves out there for any legality that we’re not aware of,” said Mayor Janakovic.

But other who supported the bill disagree, including Sarah Barrett, who councils LGBT teenagers in Johnstown.

“It’s a scenario where we will not have growth and we will not have community and we have set ourselves back again in not taking advantage of that opportunity,” said Barrett, a licensed clinical social worker. 

The mayor said the council members plan to research the exact language of the bill before the next city council meeting in April. At that meeting, the council could vote to bring Bill 5 back on the table for another vote.

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February 07 2021 06:30 pm

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