Metro Weekly

Arizona lawmakers introduce LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill

Bill would permanently enshrine LGBTQ protections already in place in six Arizona cities

Arizona State Capitol complex – Photo: Adavyd, via Wikimedia.

Lawmakers in Arizona have introduced a comprehensive bill that would protect LGBTQ state residents from various forms of discrimination.

Senate Bill 1249 would update the state’s current nondiscrimination law to include protections for people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix), and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators.

“The principles of nondiscrimination are rooted in core conservative values of fairness, equality, and opportunity,” Brophy McGee said in a statement. “If we want to live in a state that grows by attracting the very best talent, has a strong economy, and is a vibrant place to live, then we must be open for business to everyone.”

The bill drops just one week after the Arizona Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by two Christian calligraphers who are challenging the city of Phoenix’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. Although the owners of Brush & Nib Studio have not been sued for denying anybody service, they have filed a pre-emptive challenge seeking an exemption that would allow them to discriminate against prospective customers based on their religious beliefs opposing homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and extramarital sex.

Thus far, the courts have ruled against the owners of Brush & Nib, finding that the ordinance does not infringe on the owners’ freedom of expression, and that creating design-to-order merchandise for a same-sex wedding does not imply that any endorsement of same-sex marriage. In fact, as both Lambda Legal and the Arizona Court of Appeals have noted, the owners are free to post a sign detailing their religious beliefs or a disclaimer stating that they do not endorse same-sex relationships if they so desire. 

Currently, six municipalities in Arizona — Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tempe, Tucson, Sedona, and Winslow — have ordinances that ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Should the Arizona Supreme Court rule in favor of Brush & Nib, those protections would be at risk, further underscoring the need for statewide protections for LGBTQ people.

Recent polling indicates that an overwhelming majority of Arizonans support such protections, with 70% of registered voters saying they believed there should be laws prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public services.

“Elected officials in Arizona are uniting to send a clear message: discrimination is harmful and bad for business,” Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “No one should have to worry about getting fired from their job, evicted from their home, or denied public services because of who they are. Treating all people equally, including LGBTQ residents, is a universal value we all can get behind. Arizona legislators should move forward on this bill quickly to help families and strengthen their state.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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