The Scottsdale City Council is expected to approve an anti-discrimination ordinance that would extend protections to the LGBTQ community in April, just months after voters elected a new mayor and council majority.
The draft ordinance has been updated, but is largely the same legislation the City Council rejected in 2016. After last year’s national debate on equality following George Floyd's death, the city’s Human Relations Commission decided to again bring it to the council.
The ordinance would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes when it comes to private employment, public accommodations and city services. The local law also would add protections to employees working for businesses of any size.
City officials said the ordinance would expand on the Fair Housing Act, which doesn’t clearly offer protections to the LGBTQ community.
“The reality is in the state of Arizona, unless you are in a municipality that is LGBTQ-inclusive, it’s not unlawful to discriminate in housing or public accommodation or employment,” One Community founder and President Angela Hughey said. “We really want to do everything we can to work with cities and stakeholders to move LGBTQ-inclusive ordinances forward and, of course, to work towards an LGBTQ-inclusive statewide update.”
Phoenix, Tempe, Sedona, Tucson, Flagstaff and Chandler have had such measures for several years.
Here’s what would change in Scottsdale
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 a local ordinance in Scottsdale still left people in the LGBTQ community vulnerable to have public service, public housing or employment denied.
Scottsdale's proposal would:
- Prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and veteran status.
- Extend protections to employees of businesses of any size.
City employees already are protected under municipal code.
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.
'Doing the right thing'
Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega said last year during his campaign that passing an anti-discrimination ordinance would be one of his main priorities.
Ortega said that passing the ordinance is “about doing the right thing.”
“Scottsdale has a reputation for being internationally known and a hospitable destination, and I believe that government, local government regulations should match that openness,” Ortega said.
Ortega and the council first discussed the issue during a council retreat meeting on Feb. 23, when some council members asked for an exemption for private homeowners renting out rooms in their homes.
Councilmember Kathy Littlefield said she wanted to ensure everyone’s rights are protected.
“If you are a single, elderly woman who wants to rent out your bedroom, do you have to take someone you don’t want to have in your house just because it makes you uncomfortable?” she said in February.
Councilmembers Tom Durham and Solange Whitehead supported adding the exemption to the ordinance.