Progress on Arizona ENDA and Sodomy Laws
Tuesday March 20, 2001
By Mark Kerr, Tucson Weekly Observer
SUMMARY: Supporters of GLBT rights are optimistic that the Arizona
Legislature may finally be coming around on employment discrimination
protections and sodomy laws.
Two bills before the Arizona Legislature that would advance GLBT rights
have moved another step closer to becoming law, although one of the measures
has been watered down significantly.
The Arizona Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would prohibit
employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was
considered by the Senate Committee of the Whole on Monday.
"Forty years ago we had the same argument about civil rights,"
said Sen. Elaine Richardson, D-Tucson, who is the bills sponsor. "This
is just discrimination of a different color."
The bill was amended so that only public state agencies with 15 employees
or more would be required to comply. Private businesses, churches and
non-profit entities would be exempt. Current state law does not prevent an
employer from firing employees based on sexual orientation, though many of the
states largest companies already have policies against the practice.
Richardsons bill was also amended to include gender identity among the
protected classes. But employers may still prescribe a dress code
Opponents tried to kill the bill by expanding the protection to all
businesses, Indian reservations and non-profit organizations. "If well
let the dog bite one guy, we should let the dog bite everyone," said Sen.
Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa.
The watered down version of the bill was approved and will return to the
Senate for a final vote this week.
Repealing Archaic Sex Laws
On Tuesday the Arizona House of Representatives voted 31-24 to approve a
bill that would repeal Arizonas archaic sex laws.
"This is the first time we have had a vote on the archaic laws
alone," openly gay Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, said. "In the
past we have voted on amendments to other bills. I think this is an historic
day for Arizona."
The bill is the latest attempt to repeal laws that prohibit non-familial
cohabitation and "crimes against nature" including sodomy, oral sex
and non-procreational acts between consenting adults. The statutes have been
on the books since 1901 but have rarely been enforced in recent decades.
"Im quite honestly relieved. It is truly a new day in the capitol.
We have done an excellent service to the citizens of Arizona by ensuring their
freedom to limit government to be less obtrusive," said openly gay Rep.
Ed Poelstra, R-Tucson, about the vote.
Gay state Rep. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, commented, "Arizona is one
step closer to entering the 21st century when it comes to gay and lesbian
The bill now goes now to the Arizona Senate for consideration. Sen. Ed
Cirillo, R-Sun City West, who sponsored the repeal legislation last year, said
he believes he can marshal the necessary 16 votes to send it to the Gov. Jane
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