The Arizona Technology Council, a trade organization that you might expect to push for laws related to things like job training and tax credits, announced that it's adding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality issues to its lobbying agenda.
Consider that just five years ago, a clear majority of Arizona voters chose to ban same-sex marriages in the state, and the state Legislature is still controlled by Republicans, several of whom openly advocate for LGBT-exclusive laws.
Thus, this news from the Arizona Technology Council is no small step, especially when you take into account the heavyweights involved with the council. The chairman of the board is an executive at Honeywell. Directors include executives from Cox Business, AT&T's regional division, Insight, Raytheon, Intel, American Express, and many more.
Now, in the tech council's policy guide, among the tech- and business-related issues you might expect the council to advocate, is LGBT equality:
Require that employees be judged on their merits opposed to their identities, fostering an environment where innovation can thrive. Embracing basic principles of non-discrimination is critical for attracting and retaining a competitive workforce.
- Employment Non-Discrimination - Advocate to public policy decision makers for passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and statewide protections in Arizona. Passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013 with the support of both senators representing Arizona, ENDA would end employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Housing and Public Accommodation Non-Discrimination - Advocate to public policy decision makers for passage of legal protections for LGBT people in housing and public accommodations. Employees who can operate freely in the marketplace without the stresses of biased treatment are better able to focus on productivity and performance at work.
- Employer Policies - Encourage companies to proactively sign the Unity Pledge and adopt best practices for LGBT inclusion and non-discrimination in order to advance or retain a competitive edge for the technology sector.
LGBT equality's still a divisive issue around the state. Despite the City of Phoenix recently receiving a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign for its equality policies, people like Republican Representative John Kavanagh dedicated a lot of time and effort trying to regulate which bathrooms transgender people can and can't use.
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The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement praising the Arizona Technology Council's decision:
"We're thrilled the Arizona Technology Council has officially added LGBT equality advocacy to its public policy platform," said Sheila Kloefkorn, member of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Board of Directors. "America's businesses learned long ago that implementing LGBT-inclusive policies is not only the right thing to do, it's good for the bottom line. Now is the time for lawmakers in Washington, in Phoenix and across the state to take a stand for basic fairness and work to enact legislation that makes Arizona a more equal and just place to do business."
The Arizona Technology Council advocates for a technology-based, pro-growth, business-focused agenda. Under the direction and skilled leadership of President and CEO Steven G. Zylstra, the Council and its Public Policy Committee included in its 2014 Public Policy Guide measures detailing the need for LGBT non-discrimination laws pertaining to employment, housing and public accommodations. Currently neither the state of Arizona nor the U.S. federal government has such laws.