Gay civil rights now official

2013-03-08T05:00:00Z Gay civil rights now officialJOE FERGUSON Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
March 08, 2013 5:00 am  • 

Kathryn Jim, the president of Northern Arizona Pride Association, fought back tears on her birthday as she explained to the Flagstaff City Council why she fought for years for a civil rights ordinance.

Jim was fighting for her best friend sitting a few feet away.

"The reason why I am here is because of him," Jim said, struggling not to cry. "This ordinance is for you."

The Flagstaff City Council unanimously gave final passage to a civil rights ordinance on Tuesday that creates legal protections against discrimination for sexual orientation, gender identity and military veterans in the areas of employment and public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants. Excluded from the ordinance are religious-based organizations, "expressive groups" like the Boy Scouts, businesses of fewer than 15 employees and government agencies.

Only a week after the Phoenix City Council narrowly passed a similar nondiscrimination ordinance, Jim said she was proud that her hometown passed a law specifically tailored for Flagstaff.

"While hundreds of cities and counties across this country have similar ordinances, we believe this ordinance has been carefully researched and uniquely crafted to fit the needs of our community," she said. "Moving forward, we believe this ordinance sends a strong message that Flagstaff is a city that truly embraces diversity for all people."

LGBT activists have been actively pursuing a nondiscrimination ordinance for Flagstaff since 2007. They were dissatisfied with the decision in 2009 by a previous City Council to adopt a "resolution of inclusion" that was not legally enforceable.

Despite the unanimous support from the Council during the first reading two weeks ago, five residents did speak out against the proposed civil rights ordinance on Tuesday.

Some of the speakers suggested the ordinance was too far-reaching and was a violation of the First Amendment, protesting a provision prohibiting advertisements that advocate any form of discrimination against members of veterans of members of the LGBT community.

Federal laws already have similar protections for race, color, religion, sex, age, disability and national origin.

Another speaker offered up the bathroom theory: that perverts would use the new law to attempt to get legal access to children by cross-dressing.

One group, dontforceflagstaff.com, launched an online petition two weeks ago opposing to the new ordinance. The petition had about 150 signatures -- some of them signed "anonymous" -- opposed to the civil rights ordinance.

Opponents would need to take out an official referendum petition requiring hundreds of signatures to put the Council decision before the voters.

Richard Mihalik, president of the Flagstaff Tea Party, supported the online petition but said on Thursday he was not going to pursue a referendum on the issue.

The Council was not swayed by any of the opposing arguments, voting unanimously to approve the ordinance.

Barring any legal challenges, the civil rights ordinance will go into effect in early April.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

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(1) Comments

  1. DanFrazier
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    DanFrazier - March 08, 2013 8:43 am
    The dontforceflagstaff Web site was started in 2008 during the first effort to get an ordinance drafted. The petition was mentioned in an article two weeks ago, so it is definitely more than two weeks old. I am not able to see any petition signatures, perhaps because I have not signed the petition. I wonder how many of the signatures are recent. I don't think this site deserves attention. What happens at Council meetings is what matters. Watch the video: http://tinyurl.com/bge6afv Item 14A
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