PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council on Tuesday evening approved a measure to expand the city’s anti-discrimination law to include protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in city contracts, housing, employment and public accommodations such as restaurants.
After more than five hours of heated debate, council members ultimately approved the change by a vote of 5-3, with the majority saying Phoenix would benefit from projecting an image that it welcomes diversity.
LGBT advocates said the move was a long time coming.
They said Phoenix, the sixth-largest city in the country, is playing catch “catch-up” with at least 166 other U.S. cities and counties that have adopted similar laws.
Mayor Greg Stanton fast-tracked the proposal, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
“The more we embrace diversity, the better Phoenix will be for business, tourism, high-wage jobs and our future economy,” Stanton said. “Updating our ordinance is the right thing to do. It’s long past due.”
The proposal drew opposition from social conservatives and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
The diocese contends the proposal is too broadly worded and could trample on religious liberties.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the vote should’ve been postponed “until it gets a proper vetting.” He called the proposal “extremist and radical for Phoenix” and said it could lead to lawsuits for all businesses that operate in the city.
“A more reasonable proposal and transparency is needed,” he said.
But City Council candidate David Lujan said that Phoenix should take “leadership in adopting initiatives that make our city an attractive place to live, work and visit.”
The city currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information and marital status.
In addition to adding sexual orientation and gender identity, Tuesday’s vote also adds protection based upon “disability” to the city ordinance.
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