PHOENIX — A bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers, including the Republican House Speaker, announced Monday that they are introducing legislation that, for the first time in state history, would protect gay and transgender people discrimination against companies, owners and employers.
The proposal is backed by many business and religious leaders, but opposed by a powerful social conservative group.
Many business leaders and interest groups have supported anti-discrimination legislation for years.
They say the lack of protections for LGBT people diminishes Arizona’s standing in interstate competition for major conferences and business expansions.
“The coalition behind this is made up of people from so many walks of life who come together based on the values of fairness and freedom for all,” said Amish Shah, a Democrat from Phoenix and one of the main sponsors. Bill.
He spoke at a Capitol press conference announcing the legislation.
The legislation would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.
It would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and places of public accommodation, which covers most businesses selling goods and services to the public.
The measure would also exempt religious institutions such as churches from the law, but it would not exempt people who say their faith prevents them from serving certain customers, such as Christian bakers who don’t want to bake cakes for gay weddings. .
It would also prohibit licensed medical professionals from practicing conversion therapy, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Exemptions for religious organizations have appealed to some members of the religious community, including the Episcopal Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This bill means that every Arizonan can be seen only for who they are, who God created them to be in the image of God, and not be discriminated against,” Bishop Jennifer Reddall said. of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.
Cathi Herrod, the influential president of the social-conservative group Center for Arizona Policy, called the bill “very divisive and very controversial.”
“This legislation would treat reasonable disagreement as discrimination, dictate coercive sexual ethics and penalize those who disagree,” Herrod said.
At least 10 Arizona cities have added LGBT protections to their anti-discrimination ordinances: Flagstaff, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona, Tempe, Tolleson, Tucson and Winslow.
Even with the strong backing of Speaker Rusty Bowers, the measure faces long odds in the Legislature, where social conservatives have considerable sway over Republicans in the House and Senate.
“I don’t foresee a rose-strewn path ahead of me, but we’re here honorably and working together,” Bowers said.
Bowers would not say whether he would hold a vote on the measure if it was not supported by a majority of House Republicans.