It's like clockwork.
At every City Council meeting for more than the past two months, citizens from the LGBT community, faith groups and parents of lesbian or gay children use their three minutes during the public comment period to tell their personal stories.
Often there are two, sometimes three people who speak at the podium in the Kiva. Their stories are different. But all the speakers share the same mission: Stressing the importance of the City Council passing a non-discrimination ordinance.
Advocates of an ordinance are not giving up, so the issue isn't going away - which is what the closed-minded conservatives and religious right-wingers who oppose an ordinance had originally hoped. In fact, support for an ordinance seems to be picking up steam. That's probably why some city staffers have started doing their best behind the scenes to sabotage it.
It's unclear whether or not the saboteurs are acting on their own or following a directive from their bosses - the latter of which is most likely.
On March 31st the majority of the Council rejected the idea of creating a community outreach program to get citizen input on a non-discrimination ordinance. Instead, five of the seven councilmembers agreed to remarket the UNITY Pledge to the public for 90 days. Now, more than two months later, next to nothing has been done. Oh, sure, there have been meetings ... lots of internal meetings. But in city government, talking about what to do is the bureaucratic political placebo for actually doing something.
Earlier this month the city's Communications and Public Affairs Director, Kelly Corsette, drafted a statement to be signed by all councilmembers that was supposed to encourage citizens to sign the UNITY Pledge. However, after several efforts to reach consensus amongst councilmembers, Corsette had to throw in the towel because he was unable to develop language acceptable to all seven members.
Corsette was forced to go to Plan B. Sometime this summer water customers will receive a card in their monthly bill from the city and One Community, the LGBT advocacy group, urging them to go to OpenAZ.co to sign the UNITY Pledge.
While Corsette was futilely working on getting a Council consensus, the Human Relations Commission voted unanimously to approve the UNITY Pledge communications program. The campaign was developed by Corsette, Diversity Liaison Sharon Cini and Strategic Initiatives Director Brent Stockwell. Other than the card arriving in people's water bills, the campaign is primarily driven by social media. The three-member team says they're also relying on some of the city's largest employers to help promote the program.
Those in the tourism and hospitality industry find themselves in a particularly precarious position. After all, they appreciate the importance of the LGBT community and their friends and families' significant contribution to our city's revenue. From a practical point of view, there is no bigger supporter of the LGBT community than our restaurants and hotels - including the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which receives millions of dollars from the city to market Scottsdale as a destination.
The CVB, like others in the tourism and hospitality industry, is being discretely discouraged from advocating a non-discrimination ordinance by the opposition at City Hall. Several other prominent businesses are receiving the same subtle message.
Undeterred by the effort to derail their advocacy to pass a non-discrimination ordinance, the LGBT community, with support from the Chamber of Commerce and Councilmembers Korte and Milhaven, are working on organizing an event for businesses to advance the discussion about the issue.
While the deck may be stacked against a non-discrimination ordinance being passed anytime soon ... its supporters are convinced they can beat the odds.