By Sarah Gittleman
The student organization Allies Equality Network (AEN) is working to establish a non-discrimination ordinance within the Kutztown borough. The ordinance will ensure equal rights to LGBTQ citizens from providers and businesses of the community.
AEN is a branch of Allies dedicated to activism on and off campus. This side project was founded spring in 2014 by Shannon Pei, 23.
A formal presentation of the legislation is scheduled for the second Tuesday of October during the public safety and community development committee meeting. The meeting is located in the Kutztown Municipal building and is open to the public.
Berks County is an area in which Pennsylvania citizens can legally be discriminated against on an arbitrary basis, meaning someone can be victimized based upon another’s personal beliefs or preferences.
If this ordinance is passed, it will change the current policy by not allowing employers, landlords and providers of public services to hold bias based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. AEN plans to back this with a human rights committee that will investigate any future cases of such discrimination.
Since Kutztown University resides in Maxatawny Township, it will affect little on campus itself, but students must keep the larger picture in mind.
“This [ordinance] will protect the rights of any student who steps into Kutztown’s downtown area,” said Darion McGowan, director of Public Relations.
One piece of activism AEN is working to pass on campus is the Preferred Name Policy. This gives students the option to change their display names on Kutztown media. Students may want to change their display name for various reasons ranging from being transgender, an international student, or a victim of domestic abuse.
“They even call your legal name out in Kutztown dining halls,” Shannon explained, “This [policy] can avoid many uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations.”
If you would like to get involved with Allies Equality Network, their weekly meetings are held every Friday at 4 p.m. and open to anyone who is interested. Meetings are located in Old Main building four in the LGBTQ center.