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Tomorrow's Debate Question Today

Immigrant driver's licenses redux in Pennsylvania?:

A city agency yesterday dismissed a discrimination complaint against Geno's Steaks for its speak-English sign, halting a case that thrust shop owner Joey Vento into the national spotlight of the contentious immigration debate.

A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers.

"The bottom line is that I didn't do anything wrong," said Vento, 68, who maintained that the sign was a political statement and that no customers were ever turned away. "It's a good victory."

Had the commission ruled against Geno's, it could have imposed fines and have moved to revoke Vento's business license.

The case, filed 21 months ago, consumed hundreds of hours of legal time and was the subject of a seven-hour hearing in December. It attracted national attention to Vento and his sign: "This is America. When ordering, please speak English."

Photo: Peter Tobia, Philadelphia Inquirer

--Michael Crowley