Chandler Chamber session aims at lack of bias ban - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Chamber session aims at lack of bias ban

November 8th, 2021 development

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Ten Arizona cities have adopted a LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance and Chandler is the largest city in the state that has not done so.

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce held a roundtable last week to push for one.

“It’s important because it’s good business, and it’s the right thing to do,” said Jane Poston, who chairs the Chamber board. “And I think our community – and our business community – is behind this. Many of our businesses already have these kinds of policies.”

Chandler City Council earlier this month commissioned a study to look at the issue. Activists at the Chamber’s session Oct. 26 expressed hope the city is following a familiar path that other municipalities followed before they ended up passing a non-discrimination ordinance.

To get one, they will need four Council votes. It appears they only have two, with OD Harris and Matt Orlando expressing support. The rest of Council preferred passing a non-binding resolution.

“They need to understand that discrimination in any form is bad and we want to be a fully welcoming city,” said Rick Heumann, a former vice mayor who is taking over as the Chamber’s board chairman in 2022. “We have other cities that have passed this and we haven’t. I’ve heard comments like ‘everybody loves everybody in Chandler, well, what is the issue?’”

He said the job ahead for proponents is to educate the mayor and council members. Stating one council member was concerned about religion, Heumann pointed out there is a religious exemption in the ordinance that other cities have passed.

He heard another say they had concerns about criminal action and he responded there is only the possibility of civil fines, not criminal charges. Another, he said, talked about quotas. Heumann said the ordinance would have no hiring or other quotas.

Angela Hughey, co-founder and president of ONE Community, has been lobbying cities around the state to pass an ordinance. She said so far no one has been fined because of the non-discrimination ordinances.

“I’m going to give credit to the business community,” said Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe mayor and current president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership. “Because for decades, nothing was happening, and then the business community started adopting policies for their employees that said, we’re going to treat all our employees the same.”

Tim Bourcet, the vice president of government and community affairs with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said businesses took a lead on this issue because they want the best talent.

“I know if I’m a business owner, and I have employees with me, I want them to feel safe, I want them to feel secure,” he said. “I want them to know that where they work they can be happy, and plentiful, and part of the team.

“Because of that, they want to be located, exist and operate in communities where that is not a factor.”

The Glendale Chamber of Commerce played a key role in getting a non-discrimination ordinance passed in that West Valley city. Robert Heidt, the president and CEO of the group, said it took some convincing.

“From one of the folks in our student leadership, they said, ‘Glendale Chamber, Robert you’re out of your lane,’” he said. “And I respectfully said, ‘We put our blinker on and we merged over.’”

He called the non-discrimination ordinance a business issue and something chambers of commerce should be working on.

Hughey said LGBTQ members and their allies represent about a trillion dollars in economic buying power.

“We vote with our wallet,” she said. “We want to live in places that are inclusive, we want to visit places that are inclusive.”

She said she has not been to Chandler in a very long time.

“I’m having a heck of a time taking my wife hiking in Mesa, Arizona now,” she said. “I’m having a really good time going out to eat in Scottsdale, Arizona now. And I spend a lot of time in Glendale, Arizona now.

“When you multiply that by our friends and family, this is a missed opportunity to really have an authentic connection with LGBTQ and allied Arizonans and people who travel throughout this big, bold, beautiful state.”

Tucson was the first Arizona city to pass a LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance in 1999. It was followed by Phoenix, Tempe, Flagstaff, Sedona, Winslow, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale and Tolleson.

Most of the ordinances are for all businesses no matter how small. However, Mesa exempted businesses with fewer than five employees. Glendale and Tolleson followed the Mesa version.

“It’s never easy anywhere,” Giuliano said. “You are dealing with a lot of what our culture has taught people to believe for a very long time, at least people in my generation. You have to break that down.”


I know if I’m a business owner, and I have employees with me, I want them to feel safe, I want them to feel secure.– Tim Bourcet