ARIZONA NEWS

Glendale will not have LGBT, gender identity protections by Super Bowl

Jan 8, 2015, 5:05 AM | Updated: Jan 28, 2015, 9:31 am

PHOENIX – A piece of legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes in the City of Glendale will not happen by the Super Bowl, according to the city’s mayor.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said Wednesday the council had met earlier in the week to discuss the ordinance but, despite word that the council might attempt to ram the ordinance through, the bill would not be signed by the time the big game comes to town.

“Too frequently you see people get in a big hurry and then they go back a year later and they’re going, ‘Wow, what did we do?'” he said. “It’s harder to undo than it is to do right.”

Weiers said adding these protections is a very important decision that should be discussed so the city council will be holding meetings this month to hear public comment.

“People have to have a voice in what they want and how they want their community to be run,” he said. “Rather than trying to ram-rod something through, let’s give everyone a voice, come back and do what’s best for our city.”

Overall, Weiers said the bill is simply not the kind of legislation that should not be rushed.

“Let’s make sure whatever we do, we do right the first time,” he said. “Knee-jerk reaction just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it is good.”

Religious leaders and others in Glendale had feared that the city council was trying to push the proposal so that it would be approved before the Super Bowl. They oppose the bill, believing that, if it is passed, many Glendale business owners, churches and others would be forced to go against their religious beliefs.

“The majority of Christianity believes that behavior is wrong,” said Eric Stanley, the Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. “With an ordinance like this, they would be coerced by the government to accept that type of behavior and to celebrate it.”

“It really puts people in a dilemma of trying to decide, ‘Do I abide by my religious convictions, or do I face government punishment for standing by those convictions,” said Stanley. “That’s what the City of Glendale needs to weigh and consider. That’s why we’re happy that they’re going to slow this process down and consider that community input.”

Stanley emphasized that opponents of the plan are not calling for discrimination against any one community.

“No one here is seeking the right to discriminate,” he said. “The only thing that the citizens of Glendale, the pastors and the churches are seeking is the right to abide by their religious beliefs and to not be coerced and compelled by the government into violating those religious convictions.”

Stanley said that the ordinance isn’t necessary.

“There really is no demonstrated, widespread pattern of discrimination against the LGBT community,” Stanley said. “The studies that have been done have shown that there are very, very, very few claims of discrimination under ordinances like this. In fact, Phoenix passed one of these a few years ago. To date, there have only been four claims of discrimination under the ordinance, and all four of those were dismissed as baseless. There’s really just no need for this type of an ordinance.”

Meanwhile, a valley gay rights group also is happy with Glendale taking its time.

Angela Hughey is the founder of One Community and said that public dialogue is an important part of the process.

“What we’ve always found from the One Community standpoint is that, when you educate people about the importance of diversity, inclusion and equality for all Arizonans, people understand and evolve to believe that it is certainly what’s right,” said Hughey.

She said that her organization plans to speak out at the public hearings.

“Obviously, One Community will be there,” Hughey said. “But I think you will see LGBT and allied businesses and citizens really taking part in this conversation.”

When asked whether opponents would sue Glendale if the city council approves the ordinance, Stanley said it’s too early to know.

“(It’s) premature to talk about that because we don’t even know what the ordinance itself would look like, or whether the city would pass it,” he said

As to what her group would do if the proposal doesn’t pass, Hughey’s approach was identical to Stanley’s. She said that One Community will “cross that bridge when we come to it.”

KTAR’s Mark Remillard and Bob McClay contributed to this story.

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Glendale will not have LGBT, gender identity protections by Super Bowl