Chandler Prohibits Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation Discrimination

November 11, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, the Chandler City Council established a nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO) to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Two years in the making, the NDO prohibits the denial of public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The council passed the NDO unanimously.

Nine citizens submitted their support of the NDO ahead of Thursday’s meeting; only two submitted opposition. Among those who testified in favor of the NDO were women claiming to be Christians and a business advocacy nonprofit, Local First Arizona, who insisted on the NDO’s potential for increasing city revenue. Chandler Pride, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, complained that the NDO didn’t go far enough.

Chandler Pride co-founder Jude Schroeder argued that the NDO shouldn’t have religious exemptions for nonprofits. Schroeder argued further that the enforcement mechanisms and punishments weren’t strong enough.

“Chandler residents served with tax dollars are not to be discriminated [against] by anyone for any reason,” said Schroeder. 

Those who violate the NDO won’t be eligible for city contracts or grants. The NDO doesn’t apply to small businesses and private membership clubs.

Mayor Kevin Hartke assured citizens that the NDO came with plenty of religious exemptions. 

“It makes a statement and it’s a statement I believe has always described Chandler,” said Hartke. 

The NDO carves out an exemption for “bona fide religious organizations or persons who hold bona fide religious views.”

At the start of the council meeting, several citizens lamented that the current council agenda didn’t reflect the current issues or will of the people: other than the DEI policy, allowing backyard chickens, and expanding the number of days citizens may shoot off fireworks. The first citizen to speak expressed a desire for the council to focus more on addressing the inflation crisis and looming police hiring shortage. Almost a quarter of Chandlers’ police force is slated to retire in the next few years, and the pace of hiring hasn’t accommodated for that.

The council spent over $56,000 last year for the study to back this NDO. A survey of 33 percent of staff revealed that most city staffers are satisfied with the city’s diversity at present. 

60 percent believe the city recognizes staff diversity, while 15 percent disagreed; close to 80 percent believe the city values different backgrounds, while 10 percent disagreed; 55 percent believe the city encourages different viewpoints, while close to 20 percent disagreed; 60 percent believe the city supports diverse teams, while 15 percent disagreed. The remaining percentage of staff were neutral. On average, 68 percent expressed a positive outlook on the city’s diversity outlook and integration, compared to 13 percent expressing a negative outlook. 

Similarly, more city employees had a positive outlook on the city’s accessibility and availability of DEI education, events, and practices: 55 percent positive, 9 percent negative, and 17 percent neutral, and 18 percent didn’t know.

17 percent of employees disagreed with DEI implementation, 25 percent were neutral, 45 percent agreed, and 12 percent didn’t respond. 

Chandler’s NDO aligns with those established by localities across the nation, and resembles the antidiscrimination laws established by states. Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws resulted in the targeting of several Christian business owners. One, a baker named Jake Phillips, declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and then declined to make a gender reveal cake for a transgender individual. Another, a website designer named Lorie Smith, declined to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. 

Phillips won his Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case concerning the wedding cake, but remains in court for the gender reveal cake. Smith will appear before SCOTUS early next month to argue her case. 

Arizona nearly banned sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) introduced a bill to do so, though it never advanced to a committee.

In addition to this latest policy, Chandler’s other DEI efforts launched in 2020, prompted by the death of George Floyd, came to fruition this year. The city sponsored and hosted its first LGBTQ+ event, produced a video series highlighting Black families living in Chandler, and hosted its first Asian community conference.

Watch the Chandler City Council meeting here:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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