Absolutely. Arizonans are fired, evicted and denied services because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These injustices don’t often make the news, though, because when discrimination isn’t illegal, there is neither an avenue nor a reason to report it. Why would a person want to be subjected to a public conversation about a humiliating and degrading experience when there is no recourse and the community has failed to call that behavior wrong? A lack of public knowledge about discriminatory behavior against gay and transgender people does not mean that no discrimination exists—it just reflects that people aren’t going to come forward about discrimination for which there is no remedy.
Yes, it’s not just Arizona. Survey data indicates that discrimination against gay and transgender workers is prevalent across the country. In 2013, a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 21 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender respondents had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay, or promotions. (Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Arizona, The Williams Institute, January 2015)
No. All people deserve to be treated equally under the law. Protecting everyone—including people who are gay or transgender—from discrimination is about treating others as we want to be treated. There simply has not been a notable increase in litigation in the states and cities that have already updated their non-discrimination laws to protect people who are gay or transgender. (Non-Discrimination Policies and Ordinances, HRC)
Phoenix has reported a low number of claims under its non-discrimination policy, which was updated in early 2013 to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The low number of claims may reflect several factors: high rates of compliance by employers, low levels of awareness by employees, and a community getting used to the idea that redress can now be sought for these types of claims. It is reasonable to expect that folks will continue to be reluctant to bring claims until the ordinance has been tested by others. Phoenix’s numbers show that people are not flooding the office with claims, but they don’t show that discrimination isn’t happening. Inclusive policies help us serve and protect citizens and attract top talent and companies to our communities.
The five Arizona cities—Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Tempe, Sedona—that have implemented non-discrimination ordinances report that the cost of enforcing their ordinances has been insignificant and certainly not a burden. In fact, they have found the ordinances to be a positive for attracting tourism, conferences, and new business.
There are no additional costs to private businesses. In fact, many large corporations are already abiding by these policies—66 percent of Fortune 500 companies do—and inclusive non-discrimination policies are certainly best practice in the public and private sector. Furthermore, the federal government requires its contractors and workforce to abide by inclusive non-discrimination policies.
Freedom of religion is important; that’s why it is already protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Arizona state law. This right is not affected by non-discrimination ordinances—including ones that contain sexual orientation and gender identity protections.
Following the teachings of one’s faith is important, but that doesn’t mean we should impose our beliefs on others. Religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate or refuse to follow the law.
Non-discrimination laws and ordinances in Arizona already require all business owners, regardless of their religious beliefs, to serve people of all faiths and races. Businesses engaged in public commerce should be held to this same standard in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity—that’s why non-discrimination protections need to be updated.
Businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms, including to customers who are gay or transgender. Nobody should be turned away from a business, denied service in a restaurant, or evicted from their apartment simply because of who they are or who they love. That’s good business practice, as the considerable support from the business community for updating our non-discrimination laws demonstrates.