Anti-discrimination Ordinance

More from this show

The Phoenix City Council approved an ordinance banning discrimination against those from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. Now that the ordinance is in place, city council member Tom Simplot will explain how it will be implemented.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Phoenix city council last week approved an ordinance that been bans discrimination against those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Here now with more on the ordinance is Phoenix city council member Tom Simplot. Good to have here and thanks for joining us. Why was this -- why is this ordinance necessary?

Tom Simplot: Quite frankly, we're simply following the lead of more than cities across the country. And we're not leading the pack. We're catching up to corporate America, to cities, counties, states across the country, and it's important to protect those who are being discriminate against. And that's exactly what, what, that's exactly what we did.

Ted Simons: Are we seeing a lot of incidents of these folks being discriminate against?

Tom Simplot: Well, the bottom line, yes, those who are opposed to the ordinance, would say show me the evidence. But, that's not the issue. If one person being discriminate against, that's too many. So it's not a math, it's not a math issue. It's a matter of doing what's right. And that's exactly what we did.

Ted Simons: And this is focus on gay lesbian tri-sexual transgender.

Tom Simplot: That's correct.

Ted Simons: And includes housing, employment, and public accommodations?

Tom Simplot: Correct.

Ted Simons: And public accommodations means what?

Tom Simplot: Public accommodations meaning city hall, public facilities, that sort of thing. Restrooms, and yes, public restrooms, and for example, any of us going, any of us traveling anywhere across America, see the, the fully assessable unisex bathrooms. Let's not forget that, let's not forget in that that, what we did was expand to disability, as well. We expand the, the definition of disability coverage in all of this. Very important.

Ted Simons: And if, if there is a violation here, what happens? How much of a fine, how much of a penalty?

Tom Simplot: Unlike most cities and most ordinances, hours back in the early 90s, went with the criminal penalty. And now, the big question, and then those that oppose the actions said it should not be a criminal penalty. The fact is it's a higher threshold to prove so those who are against all of this two decades ago, imposed the criminal sanction as a higher threshold, a higher threshold to meet. So, it's, actually, instead of going the civil route, it's, it's actually, a little easier with the criminal. So, what happens is, if there is a violation, staff will go in, and negotiate a settlement, much like they would with a civil sanction, and the ultimate action would be the criminal but we have absolutely no history in two decades of anyone being, being convict for, for the criminal action.

Ted Simons: And that's why the $, fine would be --

Tom Simplot: Yes.

Ted Simons: Ok. There was an agreement that exempts religious organizations. What constitutes a religious organization?

Tom Simplot: They would have to be a bonified organization, a c or a church exemption much like any of the ordinances across the country.

Ted Simons: There were some who are against this ordinance, they said the public was, was, I think the, "was purposely mislead on this aspect of the ordinance." How do you respond to that?

Tom Simplot: I agree with that. I think the publisher was misled. There was a scare tactic that was orchestrated by one city council member, in particular, and I think that the whole goal was to, to look at the public outcry about this, and I think it was more for political gain.

Ted Simons: And I will say that city council member, he's the one who thinks that the public was misled on the religious issue. That it was run through quickly and the public didn't have a chance to realize what it met.

Tom Simplot: And I would, I guess that I would disagree. It might be fun to have a debate on that issue alone. To see who was misleading whom.

Ted Simons: All right, and also, exempt, we have got private clubs, and senior housing, and small private landlords. Why are they exempt?

Tom Simplot: Small private landlords, historically, that, that group is exempt because, because along line of the religious organizations, and I disagree with it myself, but over the course of the past several decades, as the laws grew, across the country, they simply exempt out the small pop and pop business, and landlords. So, what we did, instead of actually going further deep, we extended the law horizontally. So, we included the lgbt community, the transgender community and the disability, as well, and we did not change the depth of the law, which we have had since.

Ted Simons: Ok, but, again, senior housing and private clubs, not included because, because they are just not --

Tom Simplot: Private clubs, yeah. Probably too hard to enforce, but we did not want to touch that. We did not want to go into those areas and try to fight those battles. We really truly wanted to go across the top and bring in the full gamut.

Ted Simons: It seems as though the biggest argument involves bathrooms and, and the critics are calling this a bathroom bill, allowing transgender to use ladies' bathrooms. First all, is that a concern? And, and if not, why not?

Tom Simplot: It's not a concern. Again, for political gain, it was a great way to label, to label the ordinance. And it sure took hold. That's what people were calling it everywhere. And this is not about bathroom use, this is about, about discrimination and protecting those who are being discriminated against, and I think council member Felda Williams summed it up well, when she did a shout out to the transgendered women in the audience, and said you are gorgeous and any one of you are welcome into the bathroom any time.

Ted Simons: But, again, if it was a wedge issue and, and if it didn't have much traction it would have not gotten anywhere. It sounds like this was a contentious hearing and a lot of folks, it sounds like this touches a nerve with a lot of folks?

Tom Simplot: Absolutely. And it's always going to be contentious, but it's always going to be contentious with a very small minority across America. And we see that in every state, and in every community, the more pander to groups that hate and discriminate, the worse we all are. And that's what we saw, that's, that's the good news of what we saw last week. The right side won.

Ted Simons: What about regulatory burdens on small business, that was brought up, as well?

Tom Simplot: Absolutely. To me, it's a where he had herring. The attorneys tried to state that that would increase the burdens on small business, and yet, to be proven. That's not the track record that we have seen with the ordinance that we have had since.

Ted Simons: With so many people, and it may have been a minority, but with so many people against it, again, there was a concern that this was being rushed through. Originally and even after everyone kind of caught wind of what was going on. Valid concern?

Tom Simplot: From my standpoint and perspective, no, not at all. This issue has been going on since again, . The council first tackled it when Mayor Johnson was Mayor, and they could not get the full protection that they sought so they just kind of let it just sit there for two decades. And if two decades is moving things too fast, then we're in trouble. And it's about, about time we got around to fixing this law, and we finally finished the job.

Ted Simons: Councilman, good to have here and thanks for joining us.

Tom Simplot: Appreciate it.

Tom Simplot:Member, Phoenix City Council;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: