Lawmakers and Businesses Put LGBT Protections on Arizona’s 2017 Agenda

By Megan Clayton • January 30, 2017 • 4:28 pm

Arizona lawmakers are working to make sure LGBT non-discrimination is on the agenda for the 2017 legislative session. Earlier today, state Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs and House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios introduced two bills that would update Arizona’s non-discrimination laws to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals as well as veterans.

In introducing the Senate version of the bill, SB 1320, Sen. Hobbs noted the large blind spot that exists in Arizona’s current laws, which prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations—such as stores, hotels, restaurants and hospitals—based on race, skin color, religion, disability, and sex. SB 1320 and House Bill 2364 would add sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to that list:

“In most parts of Arizona, it is legal to fire someone from their job, evict them from their home or deny them public services, such as at a restaurant, store or hospital, simply because of their veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity. As Arizonans, we believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law; that’s why we need this important update.”

Business, faith and other community leaders also gathered at this morning’s bill announcement, an event organized by ONE Community, a coalition of businesses and individuals that support LGBT inclusion in Arizona’s business community. Angela Hughey, co-founder and President of ONE Community, underscored an economic message in expressing her organization’s support for the two bills:

“Banning discrimination isn’t only the right thing to do, but it will help Arizona’s bottom line. Businesses want to work in states and communities where their employees, customers and families will be treated fairly, where they won’t have to worry about being fired, kicked out of their homes or denied services simply because of who they are. An update to our non-discrimination policies will help us all to prosper together.”

More than 2,100 businesses have also come out explicitly in favor of the legislation, citing an array of economic concerns, from keeping Arizona’s job market nationally competitive to ensuring the state’s business climate remains friendly to investment. Arizona businesses are clearly looking at national trends and trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Both CNBC and Forbes Magazine currently list LGBT rights as a priority criteria in their annual best states for business lists. And the NCAA—which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue to states across the country—announced last year that they will consider LGBT rights when awarding cities championship games going forward.

In fact, earlier this month the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, Dan Gavitt dropped hints that Arizona could lose its lucrative championship games if lawmakers do not adopt non-discrimination protections that cover LGBT players, fans and employees. He said: “The board of governors has made a statement that being inclusive and being true to our core values at the NCAA and our member institutions, and hosting events in communities that are inclusive and welcoming is important.”

This move from Arizona lawmakers also dovetails with what citizens say they want from businesses and their government. An October 2016 Out & Equal Workplace Survey by The Harris Poll found that not only do 67 percent of Americans support non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals—they are willing to back businesses that support treating LGBT people equally.

Freedom for All Americans congratulates Arizona lawmakers and other local leaders who are getting proactive on the issue of LGBT non-discrimination, and encourages all businesses and lawmakers to support local efforts to make these important changes.

“Senate Bill 1320 and House Bill 2364 would not only protect veterans and LGBT individuals from discrimination, but will also strengthen the state’s economy by ensuring that Arizona continues to be an open and inclusive place to live, work and do business. Americans oppose discrimination, and we know many people consider how businesses, cities and even states treat LGBT people and their families before deciding where to visit or invest their money,

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