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Tempe joins Az cities barring discrimination against gays

Just a day after the veto of a controversial bill that would have reinforced the ability of Arizona businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, the Tempe City Council unanimously voted to join three other cities, including Tucson, that have broadened civil-rights protections for gay and transgender people.

With a 7-0 vote Thursday, Tempe now bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants. The ordinance includes exceptions for religious groups and private clubs.

"Each and every member of our council shares a real commitment to fairness and equal opportunity for all of our residents," said Councilman Corey Woods in a news release from Equality Arizona; he serves on the board of the gay-rights group.

"We worked for more than six months to craft an ordinance that would continue to move Tempe forward," Woods said. "The support this ordinance received is an indication of the kind of community we are. Tempe is truly a city committed to being open, inclusive and diverse."

Equality Arizona President Rebecca Wininger cheered the vote.

"I want to express my gratitude to the council, for being leaders in the movement for equality," she said in the release. "The work we are doing to achieve equality for the LBGTQ community in Arizona is building momentum. It is no longer a matter of if, but of when. Together, we took another big step toward our goal today."

Under the ordinance, Tempe businesses or individuals who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as race, color, gender, religion, national origin, familial status, age, disability and veteran status, face a civil sanction — with fines up to $2,500.

In Tucson, a city law has barred discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1999. Phoenix and Flagstaff passed such ordinances last year. The vetoed SB 1062 would've preempted those city laws, if discrimination were committed with a religious justification.

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In the rest of the state, it remains legal to discriminate against LGBT people, although a recent decision in a jury selection case by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared LGBT individuals to be a protected class.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial anti-gay SB 1062 on Wednesday, saying it would "create more problems than it purports to solve."

"Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination," she said.

"Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated," Brewer said. "The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences"

The bill would have given any individual or business an exemption from any state law that substantially burdens their exercise of religion, including laws forbidding discrimination in public accommodations.

Business leaders, advocates and Arizona’s two Republican U.S. senators urged Brewer to veto the measure, which opponents said would empower businesses to discriminate against gays and others and would trump ordinances in cities such as Phoenix and Tucson against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before," Brewer said.

"Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," she said. "It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want."

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1 comment on this story

1
1 comments
Feb 28, 2014, 8:01 pm
-2 +5

This city council action is deceptive and useless.  If anyone would like to refuse someone who they think is gay or lesbian any kind of service, whether it be medical, restaurant, or in a store, all they have to do is claim their religious beliefs prevent it. 

Gays and Lesbians can still be kicked out of their apartments or fired from their jobs, this ordinance does nothing.  All anyone need do is tout their religious beliefs.  The Bible was used to justify Jim Crow Laws, and this is no different.  You can take a flying leap Tempe.

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