Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this article inaccurately listed the protected classes in the ordinance.
Scottsdale will now offer protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public places, housing and employers of any size.
The City Council, which gained four new members this year, unanimously passed the anti-discrimination ordinance on Tuesday, making Scottsdale the eighth city in Arizona to adopt such legislation.
The new council members, including Mayor David Ortega, had campaigned on the issue. Ortega said the new legislation confirms his commitment to making Scottsdale an inclusive city.
“No matter who you are or who you love, you are welcome in Scottsdale,” he said.
Scottsdale’s council had discussed a similar ordinance in 2016, but never took it to a vote as elected leaders disagreed on whether to exempt businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Former city politicians had pressed for the uniformity of statewide LGBTQ protections, but such a measure has not made it through the Arizona Legislature.
Former Councilmember Virginia Korte, who has long advocated for the ordinance, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting about the need for such protections.
“We must know that Arizona ranks as fifth highest for reporting incidents of hate crime against the LGBTQ people and Scottsdale is part of that,” Korte said.
What will change
Federal and state law leave gaps in protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in places of public accommodation, housing or small-business employers. The lack of local regulation in Scottsdale left people in the LGBTQ community vulnerable to being discriminated againstor denied services, housing or employment.
The new ordinance will:
- Prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Extend protections to employees of businesses of any size.
The ordinance puts in place measures to investigate reported incidents. A person who believes they were discriminated against can file a complaint with the city manager within 90 days of the incident.
The city would then have 45 days to investigate the complaint and then send a copy of the charge to the violator, requesting a response within 20 days. The city may offer mediation services in an attempt to resolve the matter. But if it is determined that a violation occurred, the Scottsdale attorney’s office can file a civil complaint in court. The fines imposed by the City Court would range from $500 to $2,500 per violation, with each day that a violation continues deemed a separate violation.
Most of the 14 residents, including a rabbi and a minister, who spoke at the council meeting voiced support for the ordinance.
Minister Andrew Williams, who lives in north Scottsdale with his husband, said Scottsdale is a place where he feels they are meaningful members of the community.
“For my husband and I, the nature of the work that you are doing fits who Scottsdale is and will only help Scottsdale grow in its diversity, in its tolerance and also in its ability to be a role model for our state and our region,” he said.
Two mothers of children who are part of the LGBTQ community offered support, too. One of them said they live in Phoenix but spend a lot of time in Scottsdale and the ordinance will have an impact on all Arizonans.
“Y’all being able to pass something like this lets to all Arizonans who come into your area know that they are safe and that they are protected,” Chelsa Morrison said.
Other residents who opposed the measure argued the issue should be put on a ballot.
Planning Commissioner George Ertel said the ordinance is flawed because it fails to offer protection against discrimination based on age younger than 40 years old, criminal history or ethnicity.
“It was explained to me that if this proposal isn’t passed tonight, it will look like the council does not support LGBTQ protections,” he said. “Well, If it does pass tonight, without improvements, it will look like the council only supports LGBTQ protections.”
Some council members said they received messages with concerns about how the ordinance would impact religious freedom.
‘All are welcome here’
Councilmember Linda Milhaven said that “adopting this ordinance makes it clear that all are welcome here.”
Milhaven added that although a lot of people try to make the issue about religion, she is a Christian who believes in a loving and merciful God, who loves and protects all.
Councilmember Tom Durham, who is a retired lawyer, also addressed religious freedom, saying the ordinance does not infringe on First Amendment rights.
“If there is conflict between the legitimate exercise of religious beliefs and the Scottsdale ordinance, the First Amendment will win,” he said.
The mayor said just like many corporations have felt the responsibility to adopt inclusive policies, the city has the responsibility to set an example.
“Our code of conduct now matches our openness and Western hospitality. We are raising awareness, guarding individualism, providing safe work and living spaces. With sincere effort, we improve Arizona one city at a time,” Ortega said.
Other cities in Arizona with anti-discrimination ordinances include Phoenix, Tempe, Sedona, Tucson, Winslow, Flagstaff and most recently, Mesa.
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