Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said extending rights to LGBT residents is good for his city’s economy.
“We’re a big city; we’re a young city; we’re a city that got hammered during the recession,” he told the Washington Blade in an interview this week. “I need every single person in my city to have every opportunity to be successful.”
Stanton spoke to the Blade a day after the Human Rights Campaign released its annual index that ranks cities based on whether their laws and policies specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. It also examined other factors that include whether a city’s police department has an LGBT liaison and if officials reported 2011 hate crimes statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Phoenix is among the 25 cities around the country that include Philadelphia, Seattle and Atlanta that received a perfect score in the index. The Arizona capital, which is the sixth largest city in the U.S., is one of only eight cities in states without LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws that garnered such a ranking.
“It’s a recognition by me that I want the very best and brightest people to stay here in Phoenix, including our LGBT community,” Stanton told the Blade. “I want them to make sure they feel fully supported by their city government.”
Arizona voters in 2006 rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. They approved an identical measure two years later.
Gov. Jan Brewer in 2009 signed a budget into law that eliminated health benefits for same-sex partners of state employees.
Lambda Legal and the D.C. law firm Perkins Coie subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of 10 state employees. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear Brewer’s appeal of a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals injunction that blocked the governor from enforcing the benefits ban.
The Phoenix City Council in February approved a measure that bans anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and government contracts. Stanton also co-chairs a Freedom to Marry coalition of nearly 400 mayors from across the country who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“Companies want to move to or increase jobs in locations where the laws are similar to their corporate policies about supporting all of their employees, including the LGBT community,” Stanton told the Blade. “For us to be able to retain the best and the brightest and attract the best and the brightest, we have to have laws that say we want the best and the brightest.”
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are among the 10 Republicans in the U.S. Senate who voted for a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Nov. 7.
Stanton said he is “very proud” of the GOP lawmakers for backing ENDA and for what he described as their leadership on efforts in support of a comprehensive immigration reform measure that remains stalled in Congress.
“I cannot believe the House will not take that up,” Stanton told the Blade, discussing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)’s reluctance to allow an ENDA vote in his chamber. “ENDA is a no-brainer.”
Stanton also applauded bisexual Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema who represents portions of south Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler and the city of Tempe.
He told the Blade that Sinema was “public about her sexuality” during the time they worked together when he was on the Phoenix City Council and she was in the state legislature. Stanton said he doesn’t give her sexual orientation “a second thought.”
“I’m proud of her for who she is and how she represents our state,” he said. “I’m proud she represents us in Washington for all that she does, including the diversity that she brings to Congress. She’s an amazing person as people in Washington are learning, but we’ve known about her here for a long time already.”