Haverford vs. Spencer
The column can be found here. The letter, in full, is below:
To the Times:Vile? Ignorant? Warped? It's seems I have hit a nerve. Such a nerve as to reduce a majority of the Haverford Township board to name-calling and a demonstrable misrepresentation of what I wrote.
While everyone is entitled to an opinion, Gil Spencer’s Jan. 30 column criticizing the Haverford Township Board of Commissioners’ approval (on a first reading) of an anti-discrimination ordinance is so vile and ignorant it demands a reply.
First, every commissioner has publicly endorsed the purpose of the law, although some voted against it for financial reasons or because they believed such legislation should be enacted in Harrisburg and not by individual communities. Not one commissioner has adopted Mr. Spencer’s bizarre view that the ordinance would protect individuals who engage in or desire to engage in illegal activity.
According to Mr. Spencer, the ordinance — the same ordinance the Daily Times praised in a recent editorial — would, for example, require landlords to rent to known pedophiles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither the Haverford Township ordinance, nor any other similar ordinance, protects a person’s right to engage in illegal activity. Rather, the ordinance prohibits discrimination based upon a “person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” and affirms that a person should not be discriminated against based upon his or her sexual orientation.
The Board of Commissioners has been debating this ordinance since last fall, and we have heard some extreme opinions, but none of them as wrong and warped as Mr. Spencer’s. Rather than demonstrate why the ordinance should not be approved, all Mr. Spencer’s column does is demonstrate his lack of judgment and, correlatively, the Daily Times’ questionable judgment in publishing such an irresponsible column.
WILLIAM F. WECHSLER
MARIO A. OLIVA
ROBERT E. TRUMBULL
DANIEL J. SIEGEL
C. LAWRENCE HOLMES
Haverford Township Commissioners
The column being referred to in the letter does raise the question of whether pedophilia can be asserted to be a "sexual orientation." As the fictional plaintiff argues in the column; Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, pedophiles are attracted to children. It is thus arguable that pedophilia is a "sexual orientation." In fact that essential argument has been made for years by the folks at NAMBLA (The North American Man-Boy Love Association).
The column, I believe, accurately predicts the reaction of a Haverford Human Relations Commission (board, council, whatever) should such a case ever be brought to it. The petitioner would have his case denied and he would fairly (in my opinion) call the board-members a bunch of hypocrites.
The commissioners attribute to me the "bizarre view" that their ordinance "would protect individuals who engage in or desire to engage in illegal activity."
The column did NOT say or suggest that Haverford's ordinance would "protect a person's right to engage in illegal activity." That is a lie! And adding the "or desire to engage in illegal activity" is a weasel way to protect their false assertion.
It is NOT ILLEGAL for a person to admit to that he is sexually attracted to children. It is illegal for a person to ACT on that attraction, just as it was once illegal for homosexuals in this country to act on their attractions. Times change.
The Haverford Township commissioners now wish to make it ILLEGAL for a landlord, employer or restaurant owner to deny a place to live, a job, or service to anyone based on their "sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression" under punishment of a $10,000 fine. They would like to be held in high esteem and congratulated for doing so. And they are, in some quarters. But in others, township residents (many of them) are expressing dismay at what they see as the commissioners' unnecessary foray into America's culture war.
In their response to my column the commissioners say they have had to endure listening to some "extreme opinions" during their hearings on this obviously divisive issue, though none as vile, warped and ignorant as mine. But they have also heard ridiculous claims that gone into the public record that have gone unremarked upon. The most glaring comes from Lansdowne Mayor Jayne Young who testified before the Haverford board that a similar ordinance passed in her town has been an "economic boon" to the community. Would Mayor Young care to provide any proof to that claim?
Finally,I suspect that the real author of this letter is its final signatory, Larry Holmes, and the others obediently signed on. (They can correct me if I am wrong.) This has, after all, been a pet cause of Mr. Holmes from the beginning. He and I have discussed the issue and we respectfully disagree on the merits.
I do not think the proposed ordinance is vile, bizarre, ignorant, or warped. I think it is unnecessary. Swarthmore Borough passed a similar ordinance three years ago and has not had a single complaint filed in all that time. There is no evidence that anti-gay discrimination is anything close to a serious problem in Haverford Township. Gays are not being denied jobs, service in restaurants or places to live, any more than people with freckles are.
I think that if this ordinance were put to a vote in the township, it would lose in a landslide. And not because a majority of Haverford residents are homophobes but because they see this as being part of an activist political and social agenda with which they disagree.
They may also understand, as I do, that the continued proliferation of government boards to police the behavior of citizens create opportunities for official mischief and injustice.
My column raised a serious and, I think, interesting question about the meaning and definition of "sexual orientation." Obviously, it is one the promoters of this ordinance would rather not think about. But that doesn't make it vile, ignorant, warped, or bizarre. I challenge them all to read the column again, especially Mr. Holmes, and to fashion a response that is less insulting, less misleading and more to the point.
UPDATE: Kudos to DelcoPop for getting it in the comments section to the letter.
CORRECTION: The earlier version of this post said the "entire" Haverford Board of Commissioners signed the letter. Only five (since corrected) did.