PHOENIX — For Arizona's LGBTQ+ community lobbying the legislature is often a defensive action.
This session, 13 bills are targeted because they're considered anti-transgender. But there is also one bill this session the LGBTQ+ community is rallying around. The Equality and Fairness for all Arizonan Act is sponsored by Republican Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers and Democratic State Representative Amish Shah of Phoenix.
"I hope we can be unified in a respectful and unifying dialogue moving forward," said Speaker Bowers.
The bill extends Arizona's current non-discrimination law in employment, housing, and public accommodation to include the LGBTQ+ community. 22 other states have similar laws on the books.
"We are literally in a position where we have the Speaker of the House, a Republican, who is co-sponsoring historic non-partisan legislation having to do with non-discrimination," said Tucson State Representative Daniel Hernandez.
The Equality and Fairness Act is modeled after non-discrimination ordinances adopted in Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Tolleson. "While it's clear Arizonans and Americans overwhelmingly favor laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination, we still see the impact of hyper-partisanship and rhetoric of division today in Arizona legislature," said Michael Soto of Equality Arizona.
While the Speaker is a co-sponsor of the bill, many Republican lawmakers don't support it. One of the provisions greatly limits the practice of conversion therapy for minors, a controversial practice of attempting to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.
The conservative Center for Arizona Policy opposes the bill. Its president, Cathi Herrod, said, "HB 2802 violates religious rights and free speech of Arizonans with coercive requirements mandating a particular view of human sexuality-confusing disagreement with discrimination."
When Speaker Bowers announced his support of the bill, he promised there would be a hearing. As of now, no hearing is scheduled.