The Scottsdale business community’s reaction to a discrimination complaint filed against a local club has been muted, but the Chamber of Commerce president says business owners are keeping a watchful eye.
Meanwhile, the New-York based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination on Monday accused Scottsdale officials, including Mayor Mary Manross, of turning a blind eye to a growing list of what the gay rights group called hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered people here.
“You see a pattern of things happening regarding hate crimes that are taking place and you see officials with their heads in the sand,” said Neil Giuliano, the alliance’s president and mayor of Tempe from 1994-2004.
Pat Dodds, Scottsdale spokesman, said Manross was unavailable for comment. He said the Scottsdale Police Department aggressively investigates hate crimes.
“This city does not tolerate discrimination. We have made that clear in many instances,” Dodds said. “We realize that (hate crimes) affect not only the individuals involved, but groups of people who may be concerned about their safety.”
Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce President Rick Kidder said the business community is taking a wait-and-see approach in regard to a complaint filed by Michele deLaFreniere, a transgendered woman, who alleges Anderson’s Fifth Estate nightclub and its owner, Tom Anderson, broke the law by banning deLaFreniere and friends from his club.
DeLaFreniere is the chair of Scottsdale’s Human Relations Commission, which makes recommendations to the City Council on issues of diversity.
More than a half-dozen area restaurants and clubs contacted by the Tribune declined to comment on whether they expect to deal with any fallout from the case.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating after deLaFreniere complained that Anderson had banned her and other transgendered people last fall from Anderson’s downtown Scottsdale club on the basis of sexual orientation.
Anderson has said he did it after receiving dozens of complaints from female customers, who objected to having “men in dresses” using the women’s restroom. There also were problems with having transgendered people using the men’s restroom, because men harassed them and took their pictures, Anderson has said.
Kidder said he thinks Scottsdale considers itself an inclusive, progressive community when it comes to issues of sexuality.
“I think the business community will be watching this to see if there will be any fallout,” he said.
He said that while calls to set up additional restrooms for the transgendered are unreasonable for many establishments, business owners need to be sensitive to people’s needs.
“From a business perspective and from a human perspective, businesses need to understand that there are people out there with which they are not traditionally familiar,” Kidder said.
Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said that in cases where the attorney general’s office is persuaded that discrimination has taken place, it can take businesses to court.
Scottsdale also has been labeled intolerant by victims of two recent attacks — one involving two homosexual men at a steakhouse last year, and another on a gay man last month near a downtown gay club. All victims claimed they were beaten because they are gay.
DeLaFreniere’s complaint, combined with those attacks, as well as a city proclamation meant to honor gay residents that the mayor’s office revised so much that it didn’t even mention the gay community, adds up to a disturbing trend, Giuliano said.
“That clearly says you don’t want to deal with this community, you don’t want to talk about this community, you won’t even call this community by its name,” Giuliano said of the proclamation controversy.