Phoenix passes anti-discrimination ordinance. And it is a huge deal.
posted by Donna Gratehouse
at 27 February, 9:50 AM 0
The Mayor and City Council held a hearing at the Orpheum Theater yesterday afternoon prior to the vote to include LGBT and disabled persons in Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance (which eventually passed 5 to 3). It seemed (I was watching it on Channel 11) that the large crowd there was mostly supportive of the bill. But a lot of opponents signed up to speak against it in addition to many in favor of it. The opponents had clearly been coached by the Center for Arizona Policy to stick to the fearmongering script about men dressing as women to prey on little girls in public bathrooms, which is gross enough as it is, but many of them couldn’t even manage that. They had a microphone and, by gum, they were going to use it! So there were a lot of comical wanderings off the reservation about “deviants” and “sin” and the need for Biblical influence over public policy, along with some truly strange mini-dissertations on human biology.
A few proponents of the bill made some very important statements about the protections for disabled people in the bill, which seemed to have been forgotten in the ginned-up kerfluffle over bathrooms. Dana Kennedy, who ran against Sal DiCiccio in District 6 in 2009 and who is currently on the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues, spoke in favor of the bill and noted that if people really care about bathrooms they should consider how difficult it is for a person with mobility challenges to access them.
Attorney Joseph La Rue, from the Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke in opposition to the bill. The Alliance is the law firm representing, among others, the Center for Arizona Policy. Something useful to know about the Alliance is that they are representing private employers wishing to be exempted from the Obamacare mandate that health insurance plans must cover birth control with no co-pay. These business owners feel they should be given the same exemption to deny women coverage for birth control in their group health plans that churches and other organizations with a specific religious mission get.
Late in the hearing, when the Phoenix City Council members were explaining their votes, Councilman Jim Waring (who voted no) brought La Rue up for questioning about his opposition to it. La Rue repeated the exact same argument that his group is using on behalf of Hobby Lobby and other business owners opposed to covering contraception for their female employees: The exceptions for churches and religious organizations carved out in the Phoenix ordinance must be extended to all businesses as well. In short, he thinks any business owner should be able to discriminate against LGBT people in employment, housing, and public accommodation if they have a religious reason for doing so.
Yes folks, it’s all connected. It’s no accident that prominent Republican figures like Rand Paul have advocated for exempting private business owners from the Civil Rights Act. And that numerous GOP politicians and pundits oppose a minimum wage and accommodating disabled people. Let’s not forget the various iterations of “school choice”, AKA attacks on public education. Let’s definitely not forget about the sustained attacks on science. It’s all about “freedom”, you see. In some cases it’s about religion. In others it’s about some other concept of liberty that happens to exclude a whole lotta people and happens to deprive them of a whole bunch of rights and freedoms and dignity. Conservatives pick whatever poison suits the occasion. In case it’s not clear: They want churches and corporations to have free reign over your life.
That’s why the vote for equality in Phoenix was huge. It was a big NO to all of that.