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Arizona court leaves governor's antidiscrimination order intact

Arizona court leaves governor's antidiscrimination order intact

The Arizona supreme court on Wednesday refused to hear a challenge to Gov. Janet Napolitano's executive order banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation in some state agencies. The court did not explain its reason for refusing to hear the special-action lawsuit, which was filed by the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defense Fund and several Republican legislators. The challenge, filed in July, argues that Napolitano overstepped her authority by setting employment policy and was legislating through executive order. Napolitano's order prohibits agencies from hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining state employees based on the individual's sexual orientation. The order applies only to executive-branch state agencies under her control. It does not apply to private employers, local governments, state universities, or state agencies under the control of the legislature or the courts. Tim Nelson, Napolitano's general counsel, said the executive order does not create new law because it applies only to those agencies under the governor's authority. Napolitano, a Democrat who took office in January, announced the executive order in June at an event held by the Arizona Human Rights Fund, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. "To the people of Arizona, I say, 'Welcome to a new Arizona,"' Napolitano told 1,000 people in attendance at the event. Legislators who filed the lawsuit along with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian group, were Rep. John Allen (R-Scottsdale), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), and Sen. Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert). Arizona lawmakers have defeated legislation several times that would have added sexual orientation to existing antidiscrimination laws, including three bills in 2001 and another proposal that died in the house last year.

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