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Arizona city approves new anti-discrimination ordinance

March 2, 2021 GMT

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — The third most populous city in Arizona has voted to approve a non-discrimination ordinance, joining other cities in the state to provide protections to members of the LGBTQ community and other groups, city officials said.

The Mesa City Council passed the ordinance with a 5-2 vote on Monday protecting residents from “discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodation based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, veteran’s status, marital status, genetic information or familial status.”

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The ordinance will take effect on June 29, making Mesa the seventh city in the state to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance.

“It’s really hard for LGBTQ people, friends and family to make a life in a city where we aren’t protected in the same way everyone else is,” said Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona. The ordinance “sends a signal from tourism to massive companies looking to expand and relocate or invest in the workforce that Arizona is a place that values everyone.”

Repeat offenders could face fines between $300 to $2,500. There would be no fine for a first violation.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said the ordinance demonstrates the city’s commitment to respecting and supporting equality and diversity.

Not everyone agrees with the measure.

“The ordinance doesn’t solve problems; it creates problems,” Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod said, arguing it is too vague. “One concern, for example? The public swimming pool. Now a male who identifies as a female would be allowed to go into the changing rooms.”

Soto argued that the ordinance would only replace the city’s existing fair housing code with more protections, some of which already exist under state and federal law.