Valley Leaders: Scottsdale Should Pass Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 4:46pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 12:12pm
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(Photo by Phil Latzman - KJZZ)
Business and community leaders gather in Scottsdale to urge the city to pass a non-discrimination ordinance.

A group of business and community leaders are calling on the city of Scottsdale to officially pass an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect the rights of all people in the city, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

While many cities have already adopted similar measures, when it comes to being inclusive, a negative perception is reality in many Arizona cities.

Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff have already done it and now says Scottsdale City Councilwoman Virginia Korte, it’s time for them to adopt an ordinance protecting LGBT rights.

“It’s the right thing to do. The LGBT community is not protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nor is this community protected in the constitution,” said Korte.

Korte said LGBT people can be fired from their job, they can be refused housing or service in public spaces.

Mesa resident Ryan Winkle said he experienced discrimination personally while out with his wife and some gay friends in the city.

“We went out to a club with a group from New York who were here to celebrate. We got turned away at the door and told, ‘You can’t come in, because you’re acting too gay’, strictly because I put my arm around another guy," said Winkle.

Those kinds of stories, and Arizona’s lackluster reputation for inclusion, brought together some of the region’s most prominent civic and business leaders, plus gay rights activists.

“Our citizens are very progressive and inclusive. We just need to share that knowledge with some of the political decision makers," said Angela Hughey.

Hughey has been doing a lot of that kind of work as the co-founder and president of ONE Community, an organization that helps link LGBT businesses and consumers.

“We are certainly hopeful that Scottsdale will move forward with public commentary and take a vote on a LGBT inclusive non-discrimination ordinance," Hughey said.

She said a message of inclusivity could mean a lot to the city’s bottom line.

“We spend more than our heterosexual counterparts, we shop more than our heterosexual counterparts, we’re fantastic consumers, we make great neighbors,” Hughey said.  “We’re remarkable professionals. We’re a community that should be embraced and have the protections that everyone else has.”

Those who attended the gathering said it goes beyond just Scottsdale.

Kristen Jarnagin of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association said the state still has a perception problem after the legislature proposed laws like SB 1062, which would have allowed  individuals to refuse service to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.

“Unfortunately there’s been a lot of legislation passed in the past 5 years on various topics and it has promoted Arizona as maybe an unwelcoming place to certain segments of the population, and it’s just untrue," said Jarnagin. "Arizona wants to welcome visitors from all over the world and a proclamation like this really solidifies that message.”

SB 1062 passed the Arizona Legislature in 2014, but the measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer.

Yet, Kimber Lanning of the business advocacy group Local First Arizona said the damage was already done.

“It makes the rest of the country perceive that we are hostile to a certain segment of our society, and we need to work on achieving an image that’s just the opposite, that we inclusive, open welcoming," said Lanning.

And that effort continues in Scottsdale, where Councilwoman Korte said it’s more than just attracting tourists — it’s about attracting skilled new residents.

“It goes beyond that in attracting the type of talent that we want, and attracting the well paying jobs and companies that we want to attract to Scottsdale," said Korte.

Korte said they wanted to get the message out that Scottsdale is open for business and that “The West’s Most Western Town” is also among its most welcoming.

Updated 8/26/2015 at 12:09 p.m.

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