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Mesa becomes latest Arizona city to adopt non-discrimination ordinance

(Facebook Photo, City of Mesa)

PHOENIX — Mesa has become the seventh city in Arizona to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance that protects members of the LGBTQ community and others.

It prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodation based on numerous factors, including race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance does not apply to churches, religious organizations and schools.

Mesa City Council members approved it Monday with a 5-2 vote after more than two hours of public comments.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said it was a “moderate” ordinance that leaves both sides wishing it went farther to support their viewpoints.

“To me, that’s a sign that this is a mainstream ordinance that hasn’t been dictated to us by any outside interest groups,” he said. “This is Mesa’s ordinance, and it demonstrates our city’s commitment to respecting and supporting equality and diversity in our city.”

Opponents argued that the ordinance was rushed without enough public input from concerned residents.

“Their collective voices should be heard and taken into consideration before a decision this magnitude is made,” Councilman Mark Freeman, who voted against the ordinance, said before the vote.

“Working in harmony, I believe we can find a way to not place a new burden on our businesses while also ensuring no person experiences discrimination in our community.”

Like Freeman, a few opponents also felt additional public discussion was needed.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, asked city councilmembers to delay the vote a few weeks to address concerns about the way the ordinance was written.

“In a number of the provisions, the language is vague and open to different interpretations – interpretations that may not align with how some of you interpret the language,” Herrod said.

Giles disagreed that the ordinance was rushed, noting councilmembers have been discussing a non-discrimination ordinance since 2014 as well as meeting with stakeholders.

Councilwoman Julie Spilsbury voted in favor of the ordinance despite opposition from constituents, including some who helped her get elected.

“The hate that I have received this week has helped me empathize and just see the smallest glimpse of what the LGBTQ community has felt like,” Spilsbury said while tearing up.

“I don’t begin to understand the why of being transgender, but I’ve listened to their stories,” she added. “I have felt their pain. They are a vulnerable group in our community, and I want to be part of a community that stands up for them.”

The ordinance goes into effect on June 29.

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