Philadelphia toughens law on discrimination

Philadelphia is enhancing its laws against discrimination.  Mayor Nutter signed a bill Thursday giving more teeth to the city’s existing Fair Practices Ordinance.  It protects various groups when it comes to housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The fortified law now gives the city Human Relations’ Commission’s power to assess larger fines for discrimination.  What had been $300 penalties could now cost $2,000.

Rue Landau is Executive Director of the commission.  She says the law is particularly important for gays and lesbians since Pennsylvania law does not specifically protect people based on sexual orientation.

“Since Philadelphia is the only place that protected people in the LGBT community, they would file with us,” Landau said at the bill signing.  “Our fines were too low.  The best protection that has happened in this legislation for the LGBT community is finally we have the enforcement mechanisms that we need.”

The amended law now covers commercial properties in cases of alleged housing discrimination.  It protects people based on domestic or sexual violence victim status and familial status.

“The inclusion of familial status as a protected category will also protect life partners who need to care for and take their time to do things for their life partners,” said Landau.

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