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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs extends protections to LGBTQ+ state employees and contractors

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D)
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D) Photo: Screenshot

Arizona’s newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) signed an executive order extending employment protections to state employees and contractors who are LGBTQ+.

As the Human Rights Campaign reports, the executive order, signed on Hobbs’s first day in office Tuesday, directs the state’s Department of Administration to update hiring, promotion, and compensation policies for all state agencies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and include provisions in all new state contracts to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The executive order goes beyond what is already required under state and federal laws banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, pregnancy, and veteran status, to include factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, culture, creed, social origin, and political affiliation.

KAWC notes that sexual orientation is already covered under a 2003 executive order issued by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D). But as press aide Murphy Herbert explained, “The order from 2003 arguably allowed the state to consider sexual orientation in hiring so long as it wasn’t the only reason for a hiring decision.”

Hobbs’s executive order, Herbert said, “clarifies that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited in all state hiring decisions.”

“Gov. Hobbs has been all over the state and she’s been hearing from communities who say that they want a state that reflects the values and a state where they feel seen and safe,” Herbert told KAWC. “This executive order is one step she’s taking to ensure that everyone in Arizona knows that she is the governor for everyone and that these communities can and will be safe.”

Human Rights Campaign Arizona State Director Bridget Sharpe said that the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization “was proud to work alongside countless other LGBTQ+ organizations and allies to help Katie Hobbs become Arizona’s governor. She ran on the promise that she would immediately act to stop the attacks on Arizona’s LGBTQ+ individuals and families and use the full extent of her power to protect our community. On her first day in office, she took an important step towards fulfilling that commitment by signing an Executive Order providing non-discrimination for LGBTQ+ state employees and state contractors. This is what it looks like to have a champion for equality in office. We can’t wait to work with the Hobbs administration to move our state forward.”

But Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative lobbying group Center for Arizona Policy, claimed that Hobbs’s executive order may violate the constitutional rights of faith-based agencies.

Last year, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) approved S.B. 1399, which created religious exemptions for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. “That law should take precedence over any executive order,” said Herrod. “The question is, does the state want to continue to have faith-based agencies providing such critical foster care and adoption services? I think we do.”

Sarah Warbelow, legal counsel for the Human Rights Coalition, conceded that S.B. 1399 trumps the new executive order. However, she explained, Hobbs’s order covers other things that organizations and agencies that contract with the state’s government can and cannot do.

“For example, if the YMCA wanted to contract with the state to broaden summer camps, that new executive order doesn’t say anything about discriminating against the kids who go to those camps,” Warbelow explained. “It does say when you’re hiring those camp counselors, you can’t discriminate on the basis of race or sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Herrod disagreed. “You can’t discriminate and not award those contracts on that basis,” she told KAWC. “Because if they didn’t award the contract because of the religious entity’s beliefs, then they’re violating their constitutional and statutory rights.”

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