Scottsdale City Council candidates detail LGBT equality position

Scottsdale Election 1

Registered voters in Scottsdale will be heading to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8 to elect three members to city council and a mayor after foregoing a primary election process due to a small number of candidates.

Scottsdale mayoral candidates are Mayor Jim Lane and challenger Bob Littlefield while council candidates are Dan Schweiker and incumbents Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte and Guy Phillips.

Leading up to the election, the Scottsdale Independent and Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting two debates in addition to weekly question-and-answer series provided by the Independent to help voters better understand where they stand on issues that matter.

The first debate, sponsored by Comerica, will be Tuesday, Sept. 27, focusing on the mayor’s race while the second debate, Tuesday, Oct. 4, will focus on city council candidates.

Both debates are from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Resort by Hilton, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road and will be moderated by Scottsdale Independent Editor Terrance Thornton.

This week’s installment is on what these candidates think of the prospect of the city of Scottsdale developing a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning community from being fired without just cause.

The politics of LGBT equality

Scottsdale City Council in August 2015 voted to allow city staff to pursue an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. A year earlier, in 2014, the entire council signed a “Unity Pledge.”

But a work session discussion last March left some wondering why the city of Scottsdale would not join other Arizona municipalities — including Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff — and become the 226th American city to officially adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect members of the LGBT community.

In June of 2015, the city of Scottsdale sent a letter to 88,000 utility customers encouraging residents and proprietors to sign the pledge and join the council in its support of LGBT rights. A member of city council says close to 50 hateful letters were sent back to the city following the UNITY Pledge effort, which for some on the local governing board convinced them of the need for civil protections.

Scottsdale municipal employees already enjoy LGBT workplace protections. In December 2007 the city adopted Ordinance No. 3765, which prohibits any city employee from discriminating against another employee based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

While the Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation, the future of a workplace LGBT protection ordinance now remains in question in Scottsdale as leading up to discussions of the potential for new ordinance caveats were created that would disqualify the majority of businesses within city limits.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Linda Milhaven — a public supporter of LGBT equality — called into question new provisions developed internally that would have exempted any business within Scottsdale city limits with 15 or fewer employees.

According to M. Brent Stockwell, then-deputy city manager, the proposal as written would not have applied to 92 percent of all businesses within the city. In addition, the proposed legislation made exemptions for an estimated 86 percent of Scottsdale businesses with fewer than 15 employees that serve customers and are open to the public.

The mayoral race

Both Mayor Lane and challenger, Mr. Littlefield, agreed to respond to specific questions about the prospect for the creation of an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Scottsdale. This is what they had to say:

Bob Littlefield

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Bob Littlefield

Bob Littlefield

No.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

I openly supported the original goal of this effort, which was to send the message Scottsdale is a tolerant and welcoming community. Unfortunately my opponent, as he so often does, showed no leadership on this issue. Instead, he was for it — signing the Unity Pledge — until he decided it was better for his campaign to be against it! Without any leadership the discussion on the city council quickly floundered over bitter side issues and left our city government looking weak and hapless.

It is clear our community is deeply divided on this issue. But holding a moistened finger into the wind, trying to figure out which course of action is most politically popular, isn’t the way a real leader deals with contentious issues. If I am elected mayor I will work to find common ground our community can unite behind to send the message Scottsdale is a tolerant and welcoming community.

Jim Lane

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Mayor Jim Lane

Mayor Jim Lane

No.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

Honest differences in opinion on sexual orientation or identity should not subject any person to discrimination or charges of discrimination. I have been a supporter of the city’s unity pledge to affirm Scottsdale’s welcoming atmosphere to all.

However, any such law should be enacted on a statewide or national level and protect everyone’s right to their ideological, preferential, or theological beliefs.

The council race

City council candidates agreed to respond to specific questions about the prospect for the creation of an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Scottsdale. This is what they had to say:

Dan Schweiker

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Dan Schweiker

Dan Schweiker

No. As a 34-year employer, I feel that employees should be protected from being unfairly terminated based upon the way they are born.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

Yes, it is the right thing to do both for business and for their employees rights.

Guy Phillips

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

That’s his business. While society may feel it’s not morally okay to fire someone based on their sexual orientation, it is not the constitutional role of government to force morality upon a business owner. If a business owner does so, then he will probably suffer self-induced consequences of lost revenue after word gets out. If the government forces the owner to accept the lifestyle of the employee through onerous laws and punishments, he or she will just resent the employee even more and eventually find another reason to terminate and will be even more wary during the future hiring process since employers don’t need the added anxiety of worrying about possible lawsuits and fines for firing an employee even if they are not meeting the requirements of their job.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

Since Scottsdale city government and all large businesses already have their own anti-discrimination policies, I will not support any LGBTQ bathroom bill on the backs of small mom and pop businesses based on the observations above and the idea that 4 (four) members of council can dictate morality to our small business community. At the very least it should be a public vote and let the community decide. I will finish by saying the LGBTQ lobbyists should be lobbying the state, not pressuring municipalities, since inevitably the state will have the last say, just like the sign-walker ordinance, AirBnB, sober houses, fireworks and all the rest.

Virginia Korte

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Virginia Korte

Virginia Korte

A recent survey showed that more than 70 percent of Arizonans believe there is equality in the workplace and many Americans do not know that LGBT are not protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to the Williams Institute, 2015, LGBT workers report experiencing discrimination and non-LGBT people have often witnessed discrimination against their LGBT co-workers. I believe the majority of Arizonans think discrimination against anyone is unfair, unacceptable and morally wrong. The rights of LGBT should be protected in the workplace and an employer should not have the right to terminate someone solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

In 2015, the city council held several public meetings regarding a nondiscrimination ordinance for Scottsdale. The seven-member council was divided on this issue and failed to agree on many details. While I continue to support a citywide ordinance protecting LGBT in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, I believe a statewide ordinance would better serve Scottsdale.

Suzanne Klapp

•Do you think it is OK for a Scottsdale business owner to have the ability to terminate an employee based on his or her sexual orientation?

Suzanne Klapp

Suzanne Klapp

No. It is not acceptable for a Scottsdale business owner to terminate an employee solely based on his or her sexual orientation. More and more businesses, both large and small, are adopting internal policies to protect their employees from wrongful termination. I am pleased to see this trend growing in Scottsdale businesses. Additionally, it is noteworthy that the entire Scottsdale City Council adopted a “Unity Pledge” last year to encourage acceptance and tolerance. Council members and the city staff have promoted this pledge citywide.

•If elected, will you support a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance focused on members of the LGBTQ community who are employed within city limits?

I have supported drafting a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect our local LGBTQ employees, and have worked diligently to bring diverse parties together to find common ground, compromise, and resolution; however, we have not yet been entirely successful. It is critical to balance the needs, abilities and sustainability of our business community, particularly our very small businesses and start-ups, with our desire to do what is right for all of our local employees regardless of orientation.  I’m hopeful that our entire community can come together in a public process to find a solution that works. There is an old saying that the result of a good compromise is when neither side walks away from the negotiations entirely satisfied.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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