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1 year later: How the Scottsdale LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinance seeks local equity for all

Photo of Pride Flag Rainbow
A month ago marks the 1-year anniversary of a citywide LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination ordinance protecting all people and creating a legal mechanism to investigate and prosecute discrimination cases in the workplace and housing, among others. (Photos: Arianna Grainey/

A look at the landmark LGBTQ+ measure in Scottsdale

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

A day ago, Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega proclaimed the month of June as Pride Month in support of those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

A month ago, marks the 1-year anniversary of a citywide LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinance providing all people with a legal mechanism for when discrimination occurs in the workplace, housing or any public accommodations.

But this successful community human rights effort — taken to the finish line by the current municipal administration — started in 2014 when a member of Scottsdale City Council decided it was her role to bring the ideas of identifying and creating a mechanism to end discrimination in the workplace and housing to the local dais.

There is no quit in former Scottsdale City Councilwoman Virginia Korte.

“It is a point of pride for me,” she said of what it meant when Mayor Ortega signed the Scottsdale nondiscrimination ordinance into law. “It is something I have worked hard on since 2014, but it was not successful because of me. It came to be because of several reasons. But primarily it took so long, because of the politics of the day.”

Emboldened through resolution No. 4497, the Scottsdale City Council voted in unanimous fashion to adopt a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“Tonight’s passage of the anti-discrimination ordinance confirms our commitment to a Scottsdale that is inclusive of all people,” said Mayor Ortega the night it was adopted, April 20, 2021. “No matter who you are or who you love, you are welcome in Scottsdale.”

City officials report the anti-discrimination ordinance provides a legal mechanism for discrimination complaints to be filed and investigated at employment, housing, places of public accommodation, and city services, programs and activities. The ordinance provides a mechanism for responding to complaints and violators are subject to civil prosecution.

As of Wednesday, June 8, there have been zero discrimination complaints at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

A day ago, Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega proclaimed the month of June as Pride Month in support of those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The economics of an ADO

Ms. Korte offers her perspective of the political and business climate when an anti-discrimination ordinance first came forward at City Hall.

“There was a lot of fear around an ADO at the time, as some felt like it was going to have a negative impact on business and in particular tourism,” she said. “There was also this idea that it would violate churches and religious organizations and their rights, which are protected by federal law.”

Virginia Korte

In plain language, the ordinance, if the need arises for enforcement, is interpreted in a manner consistent with free exercise of religion, as well as other First Amendment freedoms.

“There were also some people who were saying that there wasn’t a problem in Scottsdale. That is simply false and turns out we have found that to be false through reporting research,” she said. “Nonetheless, as I felt that night and as I do today, I admire the City Council’s courage for stepping forward and doing the right thing.”

Specifically, city officials report:

  • December 2018 – assault and harassment based on sexual orientation at a bar in Scottsdale
  • March 2019 –reports or discriminatory comments based on sex, sexual orientation and race/ethnicity at a Scottsdale event.
  • Fall 2019 – report of discrimination based on gender identity at a school in Scottsdale.
  • February 2020 – report of harassment at a bar in Scottsdale based on a perception of sexual orientation.
  • August 2020 – report of harassment based on sexual orientation at a restaurant in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega brought the anti-discrimination ordinance to the political finish line in April 2021 with rules becoming law in May 2021.

How it came to be

For Ms. Korte, it all starts with the dedication of those who serve at the Scottsdale Human Services Commission.

“I look at the creation of this ordinance like I do the creation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. There were a lot of people passionate about this issue,” she said. “Those passionate individuals are not only Scottsdale residents — but some are also still working on a statewide ordinance so that people feel safe and secure whether they are in Scottsdale or in Cave Creek.”

Ms. Korte says she is just a part of bigger effort.

“I was just one of many who played an important role and of course given my position on City Council I think it was my part to bring it to City Council, she said. “I don’t think it would have seen the light of day if I had not been on council, but that is not to say I was just one part of what many dedicated people were working toward — everyone on the Human Services Commission was behind this.”

The economics of equity and equality for all is something that resonates, and data points at City Hall reflect those political positions, Ms. Korte explains.

“I think if anything it has had a positive impact primarily on our tourism industry,” she said. “It does not go unnoticed in the tourism industry and that is a very important part of our community. Being a place that is accepting of everyone, whether they are visitors or residents, today that is a key factor in how people make decisions for where they want to visit, where they want to spend their money and spend their time.”

Ms. Korte says in a modern community the issue has always been simple in her mind.

“When it comes right down to it, should all people be treated fairly and equally?” she asked. “It is hard to understand how that is wrong. How a hard-working employee can be fired based on who they are, or who they love. Simply for being. It is not fair, and it is not honorable. And I don’t believe that is what Scottsdale is about.”

Ms. Korte is schedule to appear on a moderated panel hosted by the Scottsdale Human Services Commission on June 23.

“It is good for business, and it is good for the community,” she said. “The city is putting together a Pride luncheon on June 23 and have been asked to a part of panel discussion.”

Ms. Korte says she feels good about the role she played making sure everyone knows Scottsdale is open for business for all members of humanity.

“Scottsdale Councilwoman Tammy Caputi, who was a part of the City Council who approved the anti-discrimination last April, says the issue is simple: It is the right thing to do.”

What it means today

Tammy Caputi, Scottsdale city councilwoman, offers her perspective on what the anti-discrimination ordinance means today one year after she voted to approve the local landmark measure.

“Our ADO is important because it sends a message to the world that Scottsdale is open to everyone,” she said. “Scottsdale is a Golden Rule City. We put our words into deeds, and we live our values. We’re creating a ‘Scottsdale for All’ and I’m proud to be serving on the city council that unanimously passed this ordinance.”

Councilwoman Caputi agrees the issue is simple: It is the right thing to do.

“It’s important for local government to treat and serve all our citizens equally,” she said.

“Ensuring a Scottsdale that celebrates, respects, and protects all people is the right thing to do and it’s the right time to do it. We cannot require this of others if we don’t embrace this philosophy ourselves. We must model the behavior we want to see in others, and as local government, we have a responsibility to the community to lead by example. Scottsdale is a Golden Rule City — we treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

Also, Ms. Caputi points out the measure turns out to be good for the local economy.

“Our ADO is supported by all our major employers, educational institutions, and most of our residents,” she explained of local support.

“Tolerance and inclusion are good for business, good for tourism, and good for Scottsdale’s brand. Experience Scottsdale, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Department, among others, are all recruiting successfully with this message of inclusivity. The city’s revenues are way up this year — clearly, we’re doing many things right!”

But admitting critical social equity issues are present in any community is no easy task, Councilwoman Caputi says.

“I think the measure was difficult to pass because people don’t want to admit there’s a problem,” she said of the uphill political battle. “It’s easier to just say, ‘we don’t have a problem with discrimination here,’ then to own the issue and fix it. The hate mail we received while trying to pass the ordinance ironically underscored the need for it.”

There have been zero reports of issues over the past year, Councilwoman Caputi reports.

“I think the No. 1 thing to note is that there have been no complaints filed this year,” she said. “We can feel great about our people and our city, and confident that the law is there if we ever need it.”

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