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Voters May Kill Pro-LGBTQ+ Ordinance in Arizona's Third-Largest City

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Over 11,000 signatures were gathered to reverse Mesa's newly enacted protections.

A group seeking to repeal Mesa, Ariz.'s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance has turned in more than 11,000 petition signatures in an effort to get the repeal measure on the ballot.

United for Mesa, an organization formed to advocate for the repeal, submitted petitions bearing 11,505 signatures to City Clerk Dee Ann Mickelsen's office last Thursday, The Arizona Republic reports. The clerk and her staff now must determine the validity of the signatures; it will take 9,093 valid voter signatures to get the question on the ballot.

The Mesa City Council adopted the ordinance March 1, banning discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, veteran's status, marital status, genetic information, or familial status. It is set to go into effect June 29. Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix, is Arizona's third-largest city, with about 500,000 residents; only Phoenix and Tucson are more populous.

Mesa Mayor John Giles, who supported the ordinance, lamented that the city now needs to defend it. "Unfortunately, the efforts of a special interest group now force us to prepare for a costly and divisive city-wide election in November 2022," he said in a written statement, according to the Republic. "Contrary to their misleading petition campaign, the Mesa ordinance is moderate and protects everyone's basic rights, including religious freedom and privacy. I urge Mesa voters to educate themselves about the facts, so they aren't misguided by fearmongering." There is a possibility the city could call a special election on the issue before November 2022.

Political consultant George Khalaf, whose company is leading the repeal effort, told the paper it's happening because "people want a voice, and this is the way to get them a seat at the table. They feel like City Council and city leadership has ignored the voice of the people, and this gives them a voice."

But Angela Hughey, president of Arizona LGBTQ+ organization One Community, said, "We really truly believe that this ordinance was crafted with years of input from the business community, from families, from faith leaders, from first responders. And we believe that our coalition of support in support of an LGBTQ-inclusive Mesa is broader than the opposition's is."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has spoken in favor of the ordinance, saying it provides sufficient protection for religious freedom, as has U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who is bisexual.

Meanwhile, another Arizona city, Scottsdale, is considering an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law. The Scottsdale City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter April 20. Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Sedona, Tucson, and Flagstaff already have such ordinances.

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