Arizona Legislature should take a leaf from Tempe’s new rules

Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While ultimately a good move for Arizona, we were collectively embarrassed to be citizens of this state — a state where, because of our wacky Legislature, people nationally think every Arizonan will discriminate against his or her neighbors.

On Feb. 28, the Tempe City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that bars “discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, familial status, age, disability and U.S. military veteran status.”

This ordinance brings Tempe in line with other cities, such as Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson. This step brings Tempe into the 21st century of equality. No longer can a discrimination exist in “employment at the city of Tempe and businesses in Tempe; contracts; housing; public places and appointments to city boards and commissions.

 

 

The Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index measures the amount of work that a municipality does to include members of the LGBTQ community. Tempe scored a 72 out of 100 on the 2013 index, while neighboring Phoenix, which passed its own anti-discrimination ordinance last spring, received a perfect score — 100 out of 100.

Tempe’s new ordinance moves it into a more inclusive family of municipalities that recognize and seek to counter restrictive and backwards state laws that may not promote discrimination, as was the case with SB 1062, but do not address discrimination that can happen for any reason without repercussions.

ASU commits to treating people equally in the Academic Affairs Manual. According to the AAM, “ASU expressly prohibits harassment, discrimination and retaliation by employees, students, contractors or agents of the University based on protected status, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Our university also implements the letter of the law by increasing the LGBTQ community’s access to amenities such as gender-neutral housing and on-campus inclusivity.

Arizona’s glaring support of inequality leaves municipalities and smaller communities to pick up the slack. Tempe took a step in the right direction by saying that public entities should not be able to discriminate based on who you are or what you believe.

However, the ordinance makes room for “religious organizations, membership clubs and expressive associations.” This keeps the idea of private expression and association intact. While discrimination anywhere is a terrible action, it is within the rights of private organizations, such as churches and the Boy Scouts, to discriminate against access to their private good.

These issues aren’t only Democratic — the right to be yourself in America is a basic human right. For anyone to say otherwise is a complete rejection of a lot of what makes us strong as a school, city, state and country.

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