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Bill would include LGBTQ+ protections in state's anti-discrimination policies

If passed, the bill would explicitly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community for the first time in Arizona's history


House Bill 2802 would prevent people from being discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation in certain spaces.

An Arizona bill would extend anti-discrimination protections so people can't be discriminated against for their gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing and spaces of public accommodation.

If House Bill 2802 passes, it would prohibit businesses from refusing to serve someone, landlords from refusing to write contracts and employers from not hiring or firing an employee because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The bill will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee in the House on Thursday, said Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix. The bill’s sponsors, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Shah, presented the bill during a press conference on Feb. 7.

Shah said legislators "on different sides of the aisle" are collaborating on this bill, in addition to continuing consulting with constituents and ensuring their concerns about the bill are addressed.

House Speaker Bowers, who is running for the Arizona Senate, currently has the power to determine which bills reach the Arizona House floor, as he assigns bills to committees and oversees the legislative process. Speaker Bowers was one of the few Arizona representatives who did not question the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, and he refused to overturn Arizona's election results in December 2020 despite facing pressure from former President Donald Trump. 

Bowers, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said during the conference that he hopes the hearts of Arizonans will have "the shape to hold diversity and kindness and understanding."

However, Bowers also has a history supporting policies that hurt the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019, Bowers spoke against comprehensive sexual education to Family Watch International, an organization based in Gilbert that is considered an LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HB 2802 is one of the few bills protecting LGBTQ+ rights in a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills targeting Arizona’s transgender community this legislative session.

The bill also includes the prohibition of conversion therapy for minors and an exemption to the anti-discrimination policy for places of worship or public accommodation spaces with religious affiliation.

But many in the LGBTQ+ community have expressed concern surrounding the bill and its religious exemption.

David Boyles, an English instructor at ASU and president of Drag Queen Story Hour Arizona, said he was "skeptical" about the bill. The bill would supersede the municipal LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination laws already established, some of which do not have religious exemptions. Boyles said he is worried that the bill would make the state's LGBTQ+ protections as a whole weaker.

Javier Marquez, a graduate student studying global business, said the bill's religious exemption is a "double standard," as people should be able to show support and respect no matter what religion a person follows.

"We just want respect and we want people to acknowledge that we're people," said Marquez, who is a member of the Thunderbird LGBT-Birds+, an organization affiliated with the Thunderbird School of Global Management that focuses on LGBTQ+ issues in global business.

Madelaine Adelman, a professor specializing in LGBTQ+ studies at the School of Social Transformation, said the U.S. has formed a greater tendency to "allow religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people."

With this religious discrimination in mind, Adelman said the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws depends on the culture within each state.

The Supreme Court agreed on Feb. 22 to look at a case overviewing the constitutionality of Colorado's LGBTQ+ discrimination protections in conflict with religious rights, again.

Arizona is one of 27 states with no statewide legal protections against discrimination for gender identity and sexual orientation, according to the bipartisan campaign Freedom for All Americans

JP Hanson, the facilitator of community programming for ASU's LGBTQ+ umbrella organization, the Rainbow Coalition, said they, along with their friends who identify as transgender, have been called anti-LGBTQ+ derogatory terms. Considering their own experience with discrimination, Hanson said LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination protections would be helpful in locker rooms because it is a space where people are "vulnerable."

"Before I started coming to terms with how I wanted to identify and started to express myself (in high school), I was still identifying as somebody who was part of the LGBT community," Hanson said. "So I did have experiences with people who refused to be next to me in the locker rooms out of fears of that."

David Lugo Robles, a graduate student studying global management, said some of his peers in the transgender community have said they do not feel they have the "protections or the freedom within the workplace or in housing specifically," especially those who were "thrown out of the house" by their families.

"If you're in high school and you're experiencing homelessness, then that becomes a really big barrier, not only for you to finish your education, but to have economical growth and development as a youth," Robles said.

LGBTQ+ employees are federally protected from workplace discrimination through the U.S. Supreme Court's Bostock decision.

ASU's 2021 Clery Report, which statistically documents crimes committed at the University, said no hate crimes have been reported at all ASU campuses for the past three years.

Adelman said that in addition to encouraging an accepting environment at the University, the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the state’s anti-discrimination policy would reassure students that they would have the resources they need to defend their rights.

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Alexis WaissPolitics Reporter

Alexis Waiss is a reporter for the politics desk. She joined the State Press in Fall 2021 and has covered state legislature, Arizona politicians, university policy, student government, the city of Tempe and stories highlighting social justice.

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