Just one day after Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay hate bill, SB 1062, Tempe, Arizona passed an anti-discrimination ordinance. The new law protects the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The vote wasn’t even close. As a matter of fact, it was unanimous, 7-0, and had the unqualified support of Mayor Mark Mitchell as well.
Tempe is the fourth Arizona city to pass such an ordinance. Tucson, Flagstaff, and Phoenix already have similar laws. The Tempe measure reads, in part:
Businesses or individuals that discriminate in Tempe on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, gender, religion, national origin, familial status, age, disability and U.S. military veteran status could face a civil sanction with a fine of as much as $2,500.
SB 1062 had a dirty little secret.
When the Arizona legislature passed the Jim Crow right-to-refuse-service bill, SB 1062, there was widespread confusion over why the state’s lawmakers thought it was necessary. Arizona is one of 29 states that does not protect the civil rights of LGBT individuals. In other words, it was already legal to discriminate and refuse them service. The city ordinances are the proposed state law’s dirty little secret. SB 1062 would have overruled the cities and established the right to discriminate within their boundaries. Clever, huh?
The four cities are the major population centers of the state. Therefore, the bigots in the legislature and the fundamentalist Christian lobbyist, Cathi Herrod, who helped write SB 1062, had a big investment in shutting down the move to protect the LGBT community.
The ordinance is just Tempe’s latest step in supporting diversity. It was one of the first major cities to have an openly gay mayor, Neil Guiliano, who served from 1994-2004. Guiliano was present and spoke at the protests against the state law. As the current mayor, Mark Mitchell, noted to the Arizona Republic, Tempe was “one of the first cities in the state that provided domestic benefits (for same-sex couples).”
Tempe, Arizona is ‘open for business’ to everyone.
Mitchell characterized the state’s legislators as out of touch with their constituents. By contrast, he had this to say about his city:
We are open for business. We don’t discriminate. We’re a fabulous community and I think you see that over and over.
City Council members were just as upbeat in their comments. Councilman Corey Woods said:
Members of the LGBT community, they are our friends, they’re our neighbors, they’re our family members. They are just like anybody else and they deserve the right to be able to work without the fear of being fired for who they are.
Councilman Kolby Granville is looking forward to what the future holds for Arizona. He also issued a challenge to the rest of the state:
What I would say to the other cities, the other 100-plus something cities in the state of Arizona, let’s see who’s No. 5.
It may appear that the Dark Ages still exist in Arizona, but they have mainly settled in the bowels of the regressive state legislature. The state’s cities are intent on lighting the way forward.