Milhaven: Why is treating everyone fairly considered controversial in Scottsdale?

“Why is it so controversial to consider a law to treat everyone fairly?”

Linda Milhaven

Linda Milhaven

That was the question I got from a citizen after a recent city council meeting. We were considering whether to or not to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city’s non-discrimination ordinances.

At that meeting, the council affirmed their support of the Unity Pledge, adopted late last year, supporting LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policies and directed staff to help promote of the pledge.

The next step is to begin the public process to include these principles in our City ordinances.

We have received many e-mails and have heard from many constituents — many for and some against. While I believe that everyone is acting in good faith, I am still trying to understand the side that argues against including the principles of the pledge in our ordinances.

Some argue that less government is better. I agree; however, some laws are good and necessary. This is the basis for our political debate. What is necessary vs. unnecessary regulation?

In my opinion, we currently have non-discrimination ordinances and adding members of the LGBT community to the list of protected citizens is simply the right thing to do.

Some argue that there is no evidence of a problem. Are they suggesting that members of the LGBT community should publicly share their stories and make themselves vulnerable to additional discrimination/harassment without any protections before we are willing to protect them?

Some assert religious freedom would be compromised. However, religious organizations set their own membership rules and hiring practices. They may include or exclude anyone they please from their organizations. Government does not and cannot regulate that.

Government does, however, make laws that bind all of us, regardless of our religions affiliations. In fact, non-discrimination laws protect citizens from discrimination based on their religion. Why would some religious organizations want to exclude anyone from the same protections their members enjoy?

Combining the assertion that we do not have a problem with the assertion that a non-discrimination ordinance will infringe on personal religious rights is puzzling to me. What personal religious rights? The right to discriminate against members of the LGBT community in the marketplace and the workplace? How can one say that there is no discrimination but then argue to protect their right to discriminate?

Some suggest an ordinance will open the business community to frivolous lawsuits. How can one assert that a lawsuit claiming discrimination is frivolous unless one thinks that discrimination is acceptable?

Members of the business community have been the strongest advocates of a non-discrimination ordinance. They tell us an ordinance is vital to their ability to attract and retain workforce talent and customers. They tell us lack of an ordinance will do us harm. How can one argue that they are protecting the  business community when they ignore the business community’s pleas for an ordinance?

I believe the city should study the issue and hear from the public. Let us know where you stand. Do you think the city should begin the public process to expand its non-discrimination ordinances to include LGBT non-discrimination?

Let us know at citycouncil@scottsdaleaz.gov.

Editor’s note: Ms. Milhaven is a member of Scottsdale City Council

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