MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Mesa City Council voted 5-2 Monday evening join other Arizona cities and take steps to protect these groups from discrimination.
"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 from the organization Equality Arizona.
Soto said an anti-discrimination ordinance would not only show that Mesa is a city that protects its diverse population but it would also lead the way for a strong economic recovery during COVID-19. "Instead of having to hide in the city that they live in,” said Soto.
"It 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,” said Soto.
"The ordinance doesn’t solve problems; it creates problems,” said Cathi Herrod with the Center For Arizona Policy. She opposes the ordinance and said it’s too vague. She's also concerned it might raise safety issues for women and girls. "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," said Herrod.
But Soto said 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.
The nondiscrimination ordinance passed with a 5-2 vote Monday evening after several hours of public comment. Once the new ordinance takes effect on June 29, 2021, second and third time violators could face stiff penalties ranging from $300 to $2,500. There would be no fine for the first violation.
“Mesa’s non-discrimination ordinance demonstrates our commitment to respecting and supporting equality and diversity in our city,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles in a news release. “I appreciate all of the input and robust community discussions that have informed the process and allowed us to take this important step forward.”
Tonight, Mesa City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance that demonstrates commitment to equality and diversity in our city. Thank you to everyone who participated in this process. This is an important step forward for the @CITYOFMESA. pic.twitter.com/Xaj8FBUp1f— Mayor John Giles (@MayorGiles) March 2, 2021
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the results of the Mesa City Council's vote that took place Monday evening.