Chevaleau: LGBT discrimination is alive and well in Scottsdale

The issue of a nondiscrimination ordinance to members of the LGBT community has come before the Scottsdale City Council several times in the last few years, but has been continuously rejected as a “solution looking for a problem” or not needed because Scottsdale “doesn’t have discrimination.”

Robert Chevaleau

As a Scottsdale resident and as the parent of a transgender child, I would like to tell you otherwise.

I see discrimination every day. I experience it directly as the parent of a trans kid. I see it through the eyes of my child when some local businesses rob her of opportunities to thrive at school, summer camp, or playing her favorite sport. They rob her of the opportunity to be treated as an equal.

There are those who have already decided who she is and of what she is worthy. And this “worth” is something less than the average Scottsdale citizen. Businesses in Scottsdale, which are supposed to be open to all, are free to dismiss her as a person, to deny her who she is. There are no protections in place should a company operating in Scottsdale choose to deny her service. Because there is no recourse, should her rights be violated?

I see discrimination in our city when I read about the horrible incidents at 5th and Wine, where an LGBT staffer had no legal recourse at the state or city level to report the discrimination and harassment he faced. The discrimination I see is painful and pervasive.

The federal government has recently taken the position that the civil rights for the LGBT population ought to fall to the individual states. Arizona asks that those rights be protected by local municipalities. So then, with respect to civil rights and protection against discrimination, regardless of a person’s biology, to whom they are attracted, or a person’s gender identity, the buck stops with Scottsdale.

I would like to ask all citizens of Scottsdale to consider the importance of a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance for the city. As it stands today, there is nothing that prevents local businesses from actively targeting and discriminating against its citizens. As absurd as it sounds, it is true. I argue that the freedom local businesses have to discriminate goes against our city’s recent “Golden Rule” pledge. But we can fix that.

Supporting citywide equality for all who live, work, and visit Scottsdale takes courage on the part of the city. The fact is that not every Scottsdale citizen supports equality for every other Scottsdale citizen.

However, I would argue that those who are unsupportive of equality are mistaken. It is a founding principle of this nation that all people are created equal, in all places, at all times. It ought not be the case that all people are equal in Phoenix, but once they cross a line on a map, that equality dissolves. But until the state of Arizona passes statewide legislation protecting all its citizens, it is up to the city to set the right tone and protect its people.

I ask that the city provide an anchor of support for equality. A citywide nondiscrimination ordinance sends a message of tolerance and inclusion and shows the rest of Arizona that Scottsdale leads the way in supporting the civil rights of all its citizens.

Both my transgender child and my non-transgender child ought to be able to grow up in the city we love and know that it loves them both equally. They ought to feel welcome and free to build a life here. And, in the rare case when there are bad actors, everyone ought to have equal access to recourse and protection.

As we approach the celebration of our Declaration of Independence, I feel it is important that my children know that the city of Scottsdale will stand up to protect their inalienable rights, chief among them, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the face of those few who would rob them of those rights.

It is tradition here in the southwest to live independently. But the people who settled this state, and the tribes who lived here before us, were only successful when they depended on each other and supported each other. Arizona has a tradition of individualism on one hand and solidarity on the other. We Arizonans can take care of ourselves as long as we all have equal access to the same tools.

A nondiscrimination ordinance would be a tool Scottsdale citizens can use to fight for our rights. And that is all we are asking. We are asking for the city to craft a tool that we can use to fight for ourselves.

Editor’s note: Mr. Chevaleau is a Scottsdale resident and is president of the Arizona Trans Youth & Parent Organization

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