Gov. Doug Ducey won’t support extending state laws to prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation.
“I’m against discrimination in all its forms,” the governor said Thursday.
But Ducey said he does not think it’s necessary to provide people who are gay the same legal protections that exist for already established protected classes.
The governor also said he believes the Arizona Supreme Court struck the right balance earlier this week when the justices decided that the Christian owners of a calligraphy firm have the right to refuse to prepare wedding invitations for same-sex couples.
Ducey said the decision was narrowly crafted and struck the proper balance between the rights of the business owners and the rights of others to be free from discrimination. And the governor noted that the justices did not strike down the entire Phoenix ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
That, however, provides protection only in Phoenix and in other cities including Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff that have similar laws. There is, however no bar against business owners anywhere else refusing to provide products or services to someone who is gay.
Instead, Ducey likes state law the way it is now.
That statute makes it illegal to refuse to provide goods or services to anyone because or race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry. And a parallel law, with the same list, bars employment discrimination.
There have been multiple attempts for years to expand that list.
That includes three this past session which would have added both sexual orientation and gender identity, the latter defined as gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms of an individual regardless of a person’s designated sex at birth. None got a hearing, including one by Rep. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix even though she is a member of the Republican majority that controls the House and Senate.
Ducey said he sees no reason for the change.
“I think we’ve got a lot of laws,” he said. “I’ve been more in the business of wanting to repeal laws and regulations.”
The governor did not dispute the premise behind one question that there has been historical discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
“Listen, in terms of what’s happened in our past and where we are today as a society, I think there’s been tremendous gains made,” Ducey said.
“I think there’s been tremendous gains in terms of openness and opportunity and acceptance,” he continued. “And I think that’s only going to continue.”
But the governor sidestepped a question of why, given that history of discrimination, Arizona should not expand the scope of its legal protections.
“I think that things have changed, and they’ve changed for the better,” he said. “And I think they’re going to continue to change for the better.”
And then Ducey cut off further discussion.
“I’ve said what I’m going to say on that,” he said.