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Democratic lawmaker’s bills seek equality for LGBT community

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PHOENIX – Saying members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community deserve equal treatment under Arizona law, a Democratic lawmaker has introduced four bills addressing employment, adoption and marriage.

“To discriminate against someone based on who they love is no different than discriminating against me for the color of my skin or against someone because of their gender,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “It’s wrong.”

SCR 1004 would have Arizonans vote on whether to repeal a constitutional provision that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A complementary bill, SB 1165, would repeal a law banning same-sex marriage that takes effect only if voters reverse the constitutional provision on marriage.

Under SB 1163, employees and job applicants would be shielded from discrimination based on their gender, gender identity or expression or sexual preference.

SB 1164 would remove the current requirement that adoption preference be given to a married couple over a single adult.

“When it comes to adoption, we should be doing what we can to make sure they’re in a loving home,” whether it be a married couple or a same sex couple, he said. “We should be doing what’s in the best interest of the children.”

Rebecca Wininger, board president of Equality Arizona, said the changes would represent positive steps for the state, which has seen a sort of turn of tide regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a minority group.

“We need protection every day,” she said. “And we are a community that needs our full civil rights given to us.”

Kathy Young, political co-chair for Human Rights Campaign Arizona, said while she is always happy to see pro-equality legislation and support, there’s something different this session regarding equality.

“This is one of the first years where we’ve seen more pro- bills coming than anti-,” she said.

Wininger said that she hopes the bills get out of committee and into the caucus and a floor vote.

“But even just bringing them forth to the community of Arizona is just great to let us know we’re not forgotten,” she said.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative advocacy group, said there is no public policy need to expand the state’s list of protected classes.

“A traditional legal analysis of why we protect classes of people does not extend to people based on their behavior,” she said.

She also said Arizonans support defining marriage as between a man and a woman, as evidenced by the successful ballot proposition in 2008.

The bills have been assigned to committees but haven’t been scheduled for hearings.

Gallardo said he realizes that the bills have a difficult path ahead, as any legislation does.

“But at the end of the day, we have to have a discussion,” he said. “And I’m trying to outline and point out a series of problems we have in our state statutes right now. And that is an unfairness and unjust for someone only based on the fact of who they love.”