CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Part of the Chambersburg community joined together in solidarity during the borough’s annual IceFest on Thursday night. Earlier in the week, the borough’s council voted to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance, which protected members of the LGBTQ community.
“I really am concerned about children on the LGBTQ spectrum who may not have parental support. They are hearing some things in our community that could be devastating for them,” said Laura Pearce.
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More than four dozen local leaders, residents, and allies wore rainbow face masks and hats to the official kick-off of Chambersburg annual event’s ribbon-cutting to show that the borough is still a welcoming place.
“We are just showing support for the LGBT community and that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere despite the borough’s repeal of the NDO,” said Melissa Mattson, board member of the Franklin County Coalition for Progress.
Thursday was day one of the four-day event where thousands come from all over the Midstate. Part of the concern many people have is the potential economic impact from people not wanting to do business here due to the non-discrimination ordinance being stripped away. But members of the LGBTQ community say the borough council does not represent what they stand for.
“What’s happening here with the folks in our community with allies and others, is a strong message for children to hear that they do matter and we do care and want to protect them,” Pearce said.
Many viewed comments by council members as disrespectful. Mayor Kenneth Hock said “It’s not OK to discriminate at all.”
He didn’t have a vote, but did sign off on repealing the ordinance.
“Yeah I had to sign that, yes,” Hock said.
“You felt that you had to sign it though?” I asked.
“You know again, I didn’t have a vote, but when it came through like that, yeah I did,” Hock said.
Part of the big concern among business owners is the potential economic impact on businesses like Falafel Shack on the square.
“Don’t let a decision made by a few people punish the whole town for that,” said Amer Chaudhry, owner and head chef of Falafel Shack.
“Chambersburg is a great place. There’s lots and lots of love in Chambersburg, people who will welcome you to their homes, their businesses and they won’t discriminate against you,” Chaudhry said.
There is still some concern for Chambersburg’s outside image, but advocates want to spread this message for those who live here: “We just want to be able to tell the LGBTQ+ community that they are not alone and they are supported in this community, both in this area and across the nation.,” said Amy Weibley, volunteer with the Franklin County Coalition for Progress and Pride Franklin County.
“Despite what council did we are welcoming and trying to make it more welcoming and we’re not going anywhere,” Mattson said.
Mayor Hock said he was glad to see everyone come out to support the LGBTQ community.