If anti-discrimination measures meant to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered city employees go into effect in Scottsdale, officials don’t expect it will necessitate any sweeping changes in city facilities.
The City Council is slated Dec. 4 to consider adding sexual orientation and gender identity — a term often meant to refer to the transgendered — to the list of protected classes in city’s equal employment and anti-discrimination policies. They will join protections for employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability.
“The city has practiced nondiscrimination for a long time, in any case,” said Pat Dodds, city spokesman. “This is really formalizing a practice that’s already in place.”
One aspect that has been highlighted throughout the discussions has been how the city would handle restrooms for the transgendered. The issue emerged during a recent dispute between a transgendered city employee and a Scottsdale nightclub owner.
Tom Anderson, owner of the Fifth Estate nightclub, 6820 E. Fifth Ave., banned transgendered patrons last fall after female patrons complained about them using the women’s restroom and men harassed transgendered patrons in the men’s restroom. The Attorney General’s Office agreed to investigate after transgendered woman Michele deLaFreniere — chairwoman of the city’s Human Relations Commission and assistant supervisor of the city’s Handlebar Helpers program — filed a discrimination complaint.
The two sides recently resolved their dispute, with Anderson agreeing to designate a unisex restroom at his club and lift the ban on the transgendered. DeLaFreniere has said she has dropped her discrimination complaint.
DeLaFreniere said Friday that although her duties as a city employee take her to several city facilities, such as Paiute Neighborhood Center, the Diversity & Dialogue Office and City Hall, she’s never had a problem with restroom accommodations.
She simply uses the women’s restrooms.
“I don’t think there will be much difference,” she said of the proposed protections. “People see me as a normal person who works here. I have not used the men’s room since I’ve worked here.”
Dodds said there have been no complaints.
“We haven’t had to make any accommodations as a response to that. The issue regarding bathrooms has not come up,” he said. “We don’t anticipate a problem or any impacts as a result.”
City officials have said they plan to resolve any issues that may arise from the proposed new protections on a case-by-case basis.
DeLaFreniere said she expects it to be “business as usual” if the new protections are approved. It’s a matter of educating people, since the transgendered don’t fit into the “social construct” we are taught as children of separate restrooms for separate genders, she said.
“That is what this is all about. It’s their own fear based on what they’ve been brought up with,” she said. “We’ve made it a big deal because that’s how we were brought up.”
Two other proposed anti-discrimination laws up for City Council discussion Dec. 4 involve prohibiting the city from contracting with groups that violate city anti-discrimination policies, and banning businesses in Scottsdale from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
Dodds said that until the council can provide some direction to staff on those two proposals, it’s too early to tell what the potential fallout could be if those are adopted.