PROTECTION OF STATE CIVIL RIGHTS

WHEREAS, two bills, H.B. 2217 and H.B. 2494, have been passed by the House of Representatives of the Pennsylvania General Assemby which disable many civil rights protections by, (i) amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to reduce its scope and effectiveness and to make it no longer substantially equivalent to federal civil rights law and laws of other states (H.B. 2217 and 2494), (ii) mandating English as Pennsylvania's official state language (H.B. 2217 only), and (iii) rendering illegal affirmative action initiatives (H.B. 2217 only);

WHEREAS, the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association resolved, (i) on July 27, 1995, to oppose legislation restricting affirmative action policies and practices; (ii) on June 24, 1992, to support legislation expanding coverage of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act; and (iii) on September 26, 1991, to oppose the enactment of legislation designating English as the Commonwealth's official language;

WHEREAS, the establishment of an official state language will exclude many segments of our society from access to legal redress, and from obtaining social services, and will act to generally deny citizens their rights under the Constitution, and federal, state and local laws;

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission opposes the bills' amendments to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act stating in testimony to the House of Representatives that the proposed law would reverse years of civil rights progress and laws throughout the country and the Commonwealth by disabling many protections against housing discrimination;

WHEREAS, the bills chill the prosecution of charges of discrimination by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission by holding it responsible for a respondent's attorney's fees if the Commission is found to have acted in an oppressive manner in prosecution;

WHEREAS, the bills permit individuals in the real estate industry to use speech which promotes housing segregation by, (i) permitting a one-time publication for each discriminatory housing advertisement without penalty, (ii) disallowing civil rights groups from filing complaints about such advertisements; and (iii) disallowing individuals without actual damages from filing complaints about such advertisements;

WHEREAS, the bills would deplete the state treasury by causing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to be no longer substantially equivalent to federal civil rights law, thus denying to the state federal contracts under the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended;

WHEREAS, a portion of H.B. 2217 and H.B. 2494 also include amendments that are not inconsistent with Resolutions previously approved by the Board of Governors, as referenced above, which amendments support employment and other discrimination provisions substantially equivalent to federal civil rights law and expand protections for victims of discrimination in all areas;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association

(1) opposes all portions of House Bill 2217 and House Bill 2494 that,

(a) alter in any manner the protections in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act against housing discrimination,

(b) alters in any manner the rights of Pennsylvania employers to take affirmative steps to insure that their workforces are not the product of past or present discriminatory animus, and causes the selection of any language as the official and only language in which government will communicate with its citizens and

(2) supports House Bill 2217 and House Bill 2494 only to the extent that the bills are restricted exclusively to

(a) expanding employment and other discrimination protections, and

(b) securing greater rights for citizens who file charges at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, as supported by the Board of Governors in its June 24, 1993 Resolution.

The Board of Governors authorizes the Chancellor to take all necessary and reasonable steps to communicate the Association's position to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including the submission of testimony.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: June 27, 1996