Here’s a story you probably didn’t see coming. The City of Brotherly Love has a problem with bias in certain businesses and organizations and the Mayor has decided to do something about it. The troubles are centered in one particular district locally referred to as “the Gayborhood” because of the large number of LGBT oriented bars and services in the area. Sounds good so far. We don’t want people discriminating against gays and lesbians.

But hold the phone… that’s not the problem. It’s racial bias they are investigating. How do those two things intersect? Well, it turns out that the LGBT community in Philadelphia is primarily white and… how to put this delicately… they’re kinda racist. At least according to the mayor anyway. (Philly.com)

Bar owners and nonprofits in the Gayborhood must attend training sessions on fair business practices and implicit bias, the city announced Monday.

The mandates come as part of a report released Monday by the Commission on Human Relations that found widespread reports of racial tension and discrimination in the neighborhood, which often touts its inclusivity.

“Racism in the LGBTQ community is a real issue. It’s a real issue in our entire society, not only just in the LGBTQ area or in the Gayborhood,” Mayor Kenney said. “We need to do more to address it here in Philadelphia. We will do whatever else we need to do to see that the recommendations are adopted. And that possibly could include eliminating organizations who won’t change their ways by limiting our participation in their work financially.”

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking because there are two questions that immediately come to mind. The first is… wait a minute. Philly has a Gayborhood? Yes indeed they do and it’s prominently featured at the Visit Philly website.

The second question is probably along the lines of… can they do that? Well, that one may be a bit more complicated.

Reading through this coverage I honestly don’t see how this is legal. There was a report issued by the city’s Human Rights Commission after some hearings, but it doesn’t sound like any of these businesses – primarily bars – are being charged with a crime. But they are still going to be forced to take mandatory training classes, post certain educational materials and take other steps. Why does it only apply to bars in that one district? Isn’t racism bad anywhere you find it? And if you’re going to do this, shouldn’t it be mandatory for all businesses? I know certain sorts of training can be made mandatory on a selective basis if it applies specifically to a particular type of operation. (Food handling and cleanliness procedures for eateries, toxic waste disposal for some industrial activities, etc.) But a bar is open to all adults just as pretty much any retail outlet or other business which serves the public. Why isn’t everyone being made to take this training and post these materials?

And what happens if the bars don’t comply? The city will be hitting them in the wallet.

The bars are ICandy, Woody’s, Voyeur (Mayfield Social Club), Tabu, UBar, Tavern on Camac, Knock, Stir Lounge, Bike Stop, Boxers, and Franky Bradley’s.

Bars that do not comply could face punitive damages and fines. Organizations that receive city money could see their contracts suspended or terminated.

It seems to me that some of these bars should challenge this in court. And not because they’re opposed to combating racism, but because all businesses should be treated the same under the law.