Proposed Scottsdale anti-discrimination laws protecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered may face an uphill battle during City Council deliberations Tuesday.
Supporters and opponents of the three proposals — which involve extending anti-discrimination protections to city employees, prohibiting the city from contracting with groups that violate city anti-discrimination policies, and banning businesses in Scottsdale from discriminating against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders — are marshalling their forces for the council’s hearing.
But some council members, like Tony Nelssen, say there should be a demonstrated problem of discrimination before the council attempts a solution.
“I want to know if anybody has been discriminated against, harassed, or otherwise encouraged to leave the city based on sexual orientation. I don’t know of any,” Nelssen said. “I don’t know if it’s a problem. If it was, I might have an issue with it. I don’t see going around fixing problems that don’t exist.”
Council member Jim Lane said the matter may be better left to state and federal officials.
“I’m concerned about Scottsdale getting involved in an area like this unilaterally,” he said.
A number of civic organizations, headed up by gay-rights group Equality Arizona, have expressed strong support for the measures. Proponents say the laws are needed to combat a perception in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community that Scottsdale is intolerant toward them in the wake of three attacks on gay men in the last year, dissatisfaction over a watered-down Scottsdale proclamation originally meant to honor contributions of gays, and a now-resolved ban on transgendered patrons from a downtown nightclub.
Opponents of the proposals, like the Center for Arizona Policy, are lining up as well.
Peter Gentala, a lawyer for the pro-family values group, said it’s inappropriate for Scottsdale to enshrine sexual behavior in civil rights laws and employment decisions.
“It basically takes something important, the way society protects race, pushes a culture war issue right into the middle of that and forces the government to take sides,” Gentala said.
If Scottsdale passes the laws, it could set a precedent in Arizona and give activists legal ammunition to force through sweeping changes, potentially including the extension of city health care coverage for taxpayer-supported sex-change operations, Gentala said.
“What you are doing is handing a legal cause of action to an activist who is going to wield it against the city,” he said. “This has ramifications well beyond Scottsdale.”
City Council meeting
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday
Where: City Hall Kiva, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
What: Three anti-discrimination proposals meant to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered are up for City Council consideration. Council could vote to extend anti-discrimination protections to city employees, adding them to a list that includes race, age and gender. Two other measures — to bar the city from contracting with groups that violate city anti-discrimination policies and to prohibit discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in public accommodations, including private businesses — are slated for council discussion and possible future action.