SB 1249 seeks statewide LGBT equality at Arizona Legislature

No Arizonan should face discrimination within our state including our LGBT community. That's why I'm sponsoring a bipartisan bill to ensure all of Arizona's diverse communities are protected.

On Tuesday, Jan. 29 a group of bipartisan legislators introduced Senate Bill 1249 at the Arizona Legislature, which proponents contend will extend workplace, housing and public accommodation non-discrimination protections for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Proponents of LGBT equality contend this is the second consecutive year a LGBT inclusive non-discrimination bill has had bipartisan support at the Arizona Legislature.

SB 1249 is sponsored by Senator Kate Brophy McGee (R) District 28; and co-sponsored by Senator Sean Bowie (D), District 18; Senator Heather Carter (R) District 15; Senator Tony Navarrete (D) District 30; and Representative Daniel Hernandez (D) District 2.

For Sen. Bowie, equality is not a partisan issue — but rather a human issue.

“LGBTQ inclusion isn’t a red or blue issue — it’s an Arizona issue,” Mr. Bowie said in a prepared statement. “Being inclusive contributes to our economic sustainability and our ability to attract and retain top talent and business. It also happens to be the right thing to do.”

Today a handful of Arizona municipalities have ordinances that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and Arizona has no statewide laws that protect gay and transgender individuals from being fired, denied housing or refused service, LGBT equality proponents contend.

More than 3,100 businesses in Arizona have already voiced their support for LGBT inclusive non-discrimination by signing the UNITY Pledge. Further, 90 percent of Arizona’s top 50 employers include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.

The Rev. Troy Mendez, dean of Phoenix-based Trinity Cathedral, says all humans are born the same.

“My faith teaches us that we are all God’s children, and that we should treat others the way we want to be treated,” he said. “The legislation will simply update Arizona’s existing laws to ensure that all our citizens are all treated equally and fairly.”

The Paradise Valley Independent reached out to Sen. Brophy McGee — who represents the interests of those who call the Town of Paradise Valley home — to better understand her position on why a statewide LGBT non-discrimination ordinance is a good move for the Arizona economy.

This is what she had to say:

•Do you believe workplace protections and fair housing accommodations should be extended to those who identify as a member of the LGBT community here in Arizona?

Yes. A number of local governments, along with businesses, have adopted nondiscrimination policies for the LGBTQ community.

It is past time that we extended the protections offered to every other Arizona citizen to this community as well. It’s the right thing to do. We should not be discriminating against anyone.

•Will you be introducing any kind of legislation that would speak to those provisions?

Yes. I am sponsoring legislation introduced last year by Rep. Daniel Hernandez, which I co-sponsored. That bill did not get a hearing. I will be introducing the bill in the Senate, and he will introduce the bill in the House. The bill protects heterosexual or non-heterosexuals from being discriminated against in a business that serves the public.

•Can you provide us any insights into why workplace and fair housing protections have not emerged from the Arizona Legislature?

Many Arizonans mistakenly believe these protections are already in place. They are not. On the flip side, Arizona has a very strong religious freedom act that protects people so they can practice their religion as they see fit. In 2014, the Arizona legislature passed SB1062, which amended existing law to allow individuals to refuse services for religious reasons. The bill caused nationwide controversy and ultimately was vetoed.

Since the defeat of SB1062, a number of cities like Phoenix have enacted local nondiscrimination policies. Most of our Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies in place. And, if you walk into many local Arizona businesses today, you will find a sign that says “Open For Business to Everyone”, meaning that business owner has adopted a nondiscrimination policy towards employees and patrons.

Those signs first appeared in the aftermath of SB1062, and I will never forget seeing them and thinking “what a great message that sends.”

•Do you think the lack of a statewide NDO has the potential for negative impacts to the Arizona economy?

The lack of a statewide law has negatively impacted Arizona in a number of areas, including our national brand, our tourism industry and attracting and retaining top talent and business. It is increasingly difficult to compete for large conventions and national events, because the organizations require fully inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

National sporting events are harder to recruit, as those organizations increasingly take nondiscrimination laws into consideration. The same requirements are becoming more commonplace with businesses seeking to locate. These businesses have nondiscrimination policies and want their employees to have the same protections outside the workplace. The patchwork of local ordinances also sends a mixed message that hurts Arizona businesses.

All Arizona citizens should have the chance to earn a living and provide for their families and patronize businesses without fear of being legally fired or refused services because of their sexual orientation.