Scottsdale considering ordinance to promote equality and prohibit discrimination

The Scottsdale City Council will consider adopting an anti-discrimination ordinance as recommended by the city's Human Relations Commission after hearing a presentation on the topic at their Feb. 23 retreat.

Scottsdale's Human Relations Commission, a seven-member advisory group appointed by the City Council, requested in August that the City Council consider an ordinance. With staff research and work to draft a proposed ordinance complete, the concept is moving forward for public consideration.

The draft ordinance addresses gaps in federal, state and local law that can result in persons being denied service, housing or employment in Scottsdale, particularly in small businesses which comprise the vast majority of all businesses in Scottsdale.

“Equality for all is a crucial community value. Consideration and adoption of a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance will strengthen us as a municipal organization and as a truly hospitable city,” said Mayor David D. Ortega. “Recently, my council colleagues and I decided to bring forward a policy which will respect individuals and promote inclusion of everyone.” 

Current city ordinances provide some civil rights protections, but do not protect individuals from discrimination in private employment, public accommodations or city services. This local ordinance would add to existing federal and state protections, including specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and extending anti-discrimination protections to people working for employers that employ fewer than 15 people.

The proposed ordinance would require local businesses and employers to comply with the law, provide a mechanism for responding to complaints (including mediation where appropriate) and subject violators to civil prosecution. Exceptions are provided for certain specific religious, membership club or housing situations.

At the request of staff, the Scottsdale's Veterans Advisory Commission considered the topic of veterans' protection at their March 3 meeting and voted to recommend to the City Council that protection for veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard and reserves and spouses of veterans and active-duty service members be included in the proposed ordinance as well.

At their March 8 meeting, the Human Relations Commission reviewed and discussed the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, including the language recommended by the VAC, and unanimously recommended the City Council adopt the ordinance as presented inserting U.S. Military Veteran Status as a protected class. 

The City Council will consider these recommendations as discussions continue.

As the draft ordinance was developed, copies were provided to community diversity partners and advocacy organizations along with the city’s LGBTQ liaisons. Adopting an anti-discrimination ordinance would add Scottsdale to a list of Arizona cities who have done the same including Flagstaff, Phoenix, Sedona, Tempe, Tucson and Winslow. The city of Mesa adopted a similar ordinance March 1; at least 225 cities or counties nationwide have adopted similar measures.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance at a March 23 work study session, and is expected to place it on their April 20 agenda for consideration and possible adoption.

“We have heard from many sectors asking that we lead the dialogue for council action in April 2021,” said Mayor Ortega. “Please join in the discussions. I truly believe that passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance will strengthen Scottsdale’s reputation as a world-class community.”

The public can submit comments or feedback on the proposed ordinance by emailing feedback@ScottsdaleAZ.gov.

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