Government

Scottsdale officially outlaws discrimination

Posted 4/21/21

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved an anti-discrimination ordinance for the local municipality on April 20, following years of work from dedicated advocates and allies, after such a law …

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Government

Scottsdale officially outlaws discrimination

Posted

The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved an anti-discrimination ordinance for the local municipality on April 20, following years of work from dedicated advocates and allies, after such a law failed to come to fruition in years past.

The new law will go into effect in 30 days, on May 20.

Scottsdale is the eighth Arizona city to pass an LGTBQ inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

This anti-discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

“Tonight’s passage of the anti-discrimination ordinance confirms our commitment to a Scottsdale that is inclusive of all people,” said Mayor David Ortega prior to the vote. “No matter who you are or who you love, you are welcome in Scottsdale.”

More than a dozen people called into the April 20 City Council meeting to provide feedback on the proposed ordinance, including former City Council member Virginia Korte, who was lauded by many elected officials as being a staple in this achievement.

In addition, a petition was reportedly submitted with support from more than 100 local businesses.

“The adoption of the anti-discrimination ordinance puts Scottsdale in a position to succeed,” said Kari Archer, general manager of the Scottsdale Marriott Old Town and chair of the Marriott Business Council. “It is not only the right thing to do, but provides one more tool in our toolbox to attract talent, business, visitors and the events we need to thrive.”

The ordinance, No. 4497, includes local businesses and employers, and requires their compliance. Additionally, it provides a mechanism for responding to complaints of discrimination, and, if discrimination occurs, violators would be subject to civil prosecution.

It also expands coverage of current anti-discrimination policies to elected and appointed officials as well as contractors, vendors and consultants who do work on behalf of the city, officials say.

The city’s Human Relation Commission, an appointed group of volunteers, has been working steadfastly on the ordinance for nearly a year.

Employee and HRC representative Sharon Cini spoke on behalf of the city’s office of diversity and inclusion.

“Tonight after many months of discussion, we are pleased to bring forward a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance for the city of Scottsdale,” Ms. Cini said, going over the ordinance’s key points.

Ms. Cini stated for the record, First Amendment and other state and federal rights, protections or privileges are not impacted by this ordinance.

Many opinions on topic

Ms. Korte was the first public speaker to give her opinion on the ordinance.

“Tonight’s decision to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance, an ordinance about equal treatment for all people, is a culmination of work and passion by many,” Ms. Korte said. “I really admire the council’s courage to discredit the myths around an NDO — this is not about restricting religious freedoms, and it’s not a solution looking for a problem. This is not an undue burden on businesses. In spite of a former political leader believing that discrimination doesn’t exist in Scottsdale, we must know that Arizona ranks as fifth-highest for reporting incidents of hate crimes against the LGBTQ people, and Scottsdale is part of that.”

Angela Hughey, president of ONE Community, issued a statement immediately following the approval.

“All hard-working people, including those who are LGBTQ, want to do their jobs and provide for their families. LGBTQ people want the same thing as everyone else — the freedom to work hard, access basic services, and take care of themselves and their loved ones without fear of discrimination. We are grateful to the mayor and council for their leadership and willingness to work with stakeholders across the community,” Ms. Hughey said.

Because discrimination wasn’t illegal, the city says it doesn’t have records of specific cases, but the city’s communication department released known cases of discrimination, harassment or retaliation:

  •  December 2018 – assault and harassment based on sexual orientation at a Scottsdale bar;
  •  March 2019 – reports or discriminatory comments based on sex, sexual orientation and race/ethnicity at a Scottsdale event;
  •  Fall 2019 – report of discrimination based on gender identity at a school in Scottsdale;
  • February 2020 – report of harassment at a Scottsdale bar based on a perception of sexual orientation;
  •  August 2020 – report of harassment based on sexual orientation at a Scottsdale restaurant.

Following the Independent’s March article on the non-discrimination ordinance being up for a vote, the local newspaper received a couple of emails.

Jeanne Bogle described the article as “fear mongering at best” and wrote:

“How many more laws, ordinances, etc. do we need since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed? For the city of Scottsdale, it must be endless new laws and ordinances. We already have ordinances in Scottsdale that provide civil rights protections above and beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Another letter write stated “we have a bunch of liberals on the City Council and in the mayor’s office.”

“Basically the NDO is intended to destroy traditional values and give preference to that which the majority finds offensive. We have laws, we don’t need an NDO to give them extra protection,” Robert Petry wrote.

Resounding support

Despite some pushback, the City Council voted 7-0 to put protections in place for all people. Overall, the group pointed to overwhelming support from their constituents.

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven, a member of the Christian faith, said she was “so thrilled” to be there for the historic approval.

“Lots of times people try to make this about religious beliefs, and I just want to share mine. I am a Christian, I believe in a loving and merciful God, who protects all of his children. I think this ordinance is entirely in line with my religious beliefs,” Ms. Milhaven said.

Councilwoman Solange Whitehead applauded the city staff for navigating lots of emails, questions and concerns about the non-discrimination ordinance.

“Change is always scary,” Ms. Whitehead said.

Mayor Ortega said 20 years ago when he was a councilman, the city established the Human Relations Commission and Office of Diversity. Today, they’re considering an inclusive code of conduct.

“We must set an example internally and externally,” Mr. Ortega said.

“Scottsdale has a great reputation as a hospitable oasis in the Sonoran Desert. Our code of conduct now matches our openness and western hospitality. We are raising awareness, guarding individualism, providing safe work and living spaces with the sincere effort we improve Arizona one city at a time.”

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