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Mesa begins discussions of anti-discrimination law

PHOENIX — The city of Mesa, Arizona, is discussing the implementation of an anti-discrimination ordinance.

During a recent city council session, the city’s Human Relations Advisory Board introduced the ordinance with a preliminary discussion.

Board Chairwoman Denise Heap said the adoption of such an ordinance is necessary for the inclusion of various minority groups.

“We need it not just in hiring and employment and housing, but also a totally inclusive policy in public accommodations,” Heap said. “It’s not just for the LGBT population, it includes veterans, the disabled, age, gender, gender identity. We need this.”

The law, which is already implemented in Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff, would mandate people be treated equally, no matter their age, sex, sexual preference, race, ethnicity and other characteristics.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said he is in support of the proposed ordinance.

“It’s also a good opportunity for us to reaffirm the importance of religious freedom,” Giles said.

Not all city officials are on board. Mesa councilman Kevin Thompson said he does not believe the ordinance is necessary.

“I would not support an ordinance unless (the) caveat would be that there would be religious freedoms protected and it would only apply to businesses that have 100 employees or more,” Thompson said.

Councilman David Richins said he is concerned the ordinance could create tension within the community.

“I’d hate to create a law that somebody could use to then turn around and sue somebody just because they didn’t want to make a wedding cake,” Richins said.