A college town full of youth, excitement and a lot of hustle bustle. Newcomers are in and out constantly and there are those who have never lived anywhere else. Diversity has always been a part of the Tempe community and widely accepted.
The city of Tempe has taken action to protect its diverse residents. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are now protected through an anti-discrimination ordinance along with race, religion, national origin and all other classes that are typically protected.
“As the cities become more diverse, they’re moving to pass these ordinances that now include the diversity within those communities,” said Rebecca Wininger, president of Equality Arizona.
Councilmember Kolby Granville called Tempe, “an inclusive, respectful community; a progressive community.”
This law was not passed in reaction to any specific instances, according to Granville. This is simply a way to show what the city believes in.
Tempe is the fourth city in Arizona to take this action. Wininger said most anti-discrimination ordinances in other cities lack protection for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Such ordinances are now acknowledging these communities within their efforts to prevent inequality.
The Tempe City Council approved the new law with a unanimous 7-0 vote at the end of February.
About 22 years in operation, Equality Arizona is an advocacy organization that looks to secure, protect and defend the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
“We’re moving to make sure that everybody in our community has the same protections,” said Wininger.
With her assistance, Corey Woods and fellow council members Kolby Granville and Joel Navarro drafted the idea last year. At a point in time, Woods recalls a discussion he had with Granville in which they wanted to introduce an ordinance legalizing civil unions in Tempe.
Woods is also on the board of directors for Equality Arizona. This is a statewide organization for the LGBTQ community. He had his first conversation about the ordinance with Wininger who is going on her third year with the organization.
“We couldn’t do what would be a real civil union,” said Woods.
The councilmen realized that based on the Arizona Constitution, they could not do civil unions. They decided to investigate what other cities in Arizona had done. Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson have similar pieces of legislation.
“It’s a very big step for the city of Tempe and I’m very proud to be a part of the council that did this,” Woods said, “... very proud to be a part of the council that passed an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT ...”
Wininger assisted councilmen Woods and Granville with the specifics, such as Land by Legal, to ensure things were done properly. She provided the support they needed.
The purpose of this new piece of legislation is to protect the community members against discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, family status, age, disability, and U.S. military veteran status. Any community member who feels a violation has taken place can file a complaint with the city manager within 45 days of the occurrence. Violations can carry a civil fine of anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.
It protects features such as housing, public accommodations, and employment. The city of Tempe’s press release says, “Tempe values diversity and works to champion inclusion within the city organization and externally. The city provides domestic partnership benefits to its employees and assures non-discrimination in hiring and in procurement,” but businesses are not required to provide domestic partner requirements.
The new law does not change any bathroom, dressing room, or locker room policies, nor does it apply to Tempe school districts. Exemptions are made for religious organizations, membership clubs, and expressive associations. There are no cost increases in compliance and no direct cost to the city administer.
• Brittney Daigneau is a junior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.