Scottsdale Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Heads for Council Vote

By Melissa Rosequist | Scottsdale Independent

It has been a long and winding road, but Scottsdale appears to have finally reached consensus that an anti-discrimination ordnance belongs embedded within city codes.

According to city officials, as city ordinances are written now, residents can be denied service or housing in Scottsdale based on such factors as sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in small businesses, which comprise a majority of businesses in the city.

The Scottsdale City Council is expected to vote on this matter at an April 20 meeting. Several council members have publicly supported the measure.

Scottsdale has made several attempts at passing an anti-discrimination ordinance — formerly known by the moniker of a non-discrimination ordinance, or NDO. Stronger language has been adopted, city officials say.

In 2014, the council at the time launched a Unity Pledge. The municipality has had on its books a similar anti-discrimination policy that applies to its own employees.

Since about 2015, the topic has come across the council dais a handful of times.

Former Scottsdale City Council member Virginia Korte has been unequivocally supportive of the anti-discrimination ordinance as it went through its ebbs and flows over the years, Independent archives show.

Ms. Korte says, now, she’s thankful.

“I am incredibly thankful for the current Scottsdale City Council’s efforts to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance. Fortunately, they see beyond some of their former colleagues’ empty justifications for refusing to pass an NDO in 2015,” Ms. Korte said. “Our community has waited far too long for its political leaders to embrace fairness and equality for LGBTQ, which the majority of Scottsdale citizens believe is the right thing to do.”

Most recently, the city’s Human Relations Commission reignited the issue after former Councilman Guy Phillips went viral on social media, being accused of mocking George Floyd, who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020, triggering a wave of protests around the U.S. Mr. Phillips has maintained his words during an anti-mask rally — where he pulled off his mask and sayd “I can’t breath, the same words Mr. Floyd said while a police officer kneeled on his back for more than eight minutes — at City Hall over the summer were not poking fun at Mr. Floyd.

After Mr. Floyd’s death and the civil unrest and peaceful protests that followed, the commission wrote a joint letter to then-Mayor Jim Lane and council in August 2020.

The commission ultimately recommended two options of an anti-discrimination ordinance. No further action was taken on the proposed rules. Since that time, Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell says work has continued.

“This started last summer during the national discourse on race. The Human Relations Commission and staff looked at actions that could help address that. The anti-discrimination ordinance came up as part of that,” Mr. Stockwell says.

“That didn’t go forward last fall, and it was waiting for you all to take that up. In the meantime, we’ve taken a look at other cities in Arizona, other cities nationally, best practice ordinances. In particular, we’ve modeled this after one the city of Sedona adopted.”

The ordinances Scottsdale already has enshrined provide civil rights protections, but there are not any Scottsdale-specific ordinances that cover discrimination in:

  • Private employment;
  • Public accommodations; or
  • City services, including contracting.

The need for a local ordinance comes because of a patchwork of laws between federal and state entities. Officials say, for example, neither federal nor state law currently protects persons from discrimination in public accommodations or housing, based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“There are no records on how often such discrimination occurs, as it is currently not illegal,” Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell said in the report to council.

Read More (subscriber content)