Last edited: November 15, 2003

Progress on Arizona ENDA and Sodomy Laws

Planet Out, 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.

Arizona ENDA

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 bill’s 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 state’s largest companies already have policies against the practice.

Richardson’s 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 we’ll 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 Arizona’s 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.

"I’m 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 rights."

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 Hull.

[Home] [News] [Arizona]