Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
On Friday, February 8th ONE Community and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will gather to launch the UNITY Pledge. UNITY Pledge sponsors describe the effort as “a concerted effort by Arizona businesses and individuals to advance workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and hospitality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and their allies.”
The UNITY Pledge is designed to help both the LGBT community and businesses. For businesses, discrimination affects workplace morale and the ability to attract and retain employees. For the LGBT community, concerns about bullying and discrimination have often led to depression and sometimes suicide.
By joining the UNITY Pledge businesses will let LGBT workers know they are welcome. According to 2010 U.S. census data there are roughly 21,000 same-sex couples in Arizona. Mayor Greg Stanton has said “If our region wants to remain competitive in the global economy, discrimination against the LGBT community, against anyone, has to stop. Arizona businesses get it.”
Individuals and businesses are both invited to sign the UNITY pledge. Local businesses that have already signed include Local First Arizona, Phoenix College, PRIDE Group, The Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, Community Tire and Auto Pros, The National Association of Asian American Professionals, Visiting Angels, Chicanos Por La Causa, and the YWCA.
In 2013 it is still legal in Arizona to fire someone simply because they are gay or transgender. It is also perfectly legal to discriminate on the same basis in housing and hospitality. A 2012 incident at District American Kitchen in downtown Phoenix resulted in protest over apparently kicking a lesbian couple out for kissing. Similar incidents have led to concerns that tourism and employment may be hurt by these practices.
Amid the calls for the voluntary Pledge the legal battle for equal rights for the LGBT community is ongoing on many levels. SB 1041 has been introduced in the Arizona legislature and would provide many of the rights enjoyed by straight married couples to LGBT couples through Civil Unions. The bill would make “Each party to a civil union is considered to be related by law and has the same responsibilities and benefits relating to the other party to the civil union as each party to a marriage entered into pursuant to title 25,” including: Community property, Inheritance, Guardianship, Life Insurance, Burial and Cremation decision rights. Several states have also introduced these rights increasing collections of marriage license fees and perhaps becoming more welcome to LGBT couples.