By Associated Press - Friday, April 2, 2021

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - A group has submitted more than 11,000 signatures in an effort to overturn a recently passed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Mesa.

The United for Mesa political committee, created for the referendum effort, filed 11,505 signatures to the city clerk on Thursday, the same day as the deadline for submission, The Arizona Republic reported.

City Clerk Dee Ann Mickelsen said the signatures must still be verified, a process that is expected to take about a month. The referendum petition must have 9,100 valid voter signatures to make it on the ballot.

On March 1, the Mesa City Council voted to approve the ordinance, which protects residents from “discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodation based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, veteran’s status, marital status, genetic information or familial status.”

A few days later, the group launched its effort, arguing it’s a dangerous and unnecessary law that will cause harm.

“People want a voice, and this is the way to get them a seat at the table,” said political consultant George Khalaf, whose firm is leading the referendum effort against the ordinance. “They feel like City Council and city leadership has ignored the voice of the people, and this gives them a voice.”

Others view the ordinance as a civil rights issue and a matter of equality and respect.

Mayor John Giles, who supports the approved ordinance, said that he “firmly believe(s) that the majority of Mesa residents want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect, without exception.”

Angela Hughey, president of One Community, an Arizona organization advocating for LGBTQ inclusivity, said she’s confident about the future of the ordinance.

“We really truly believe that this ordinance was crafted with years of input from the business community, from families, from faith leaders, from first responders,” Hughey said. “And we believe that our coalition of support in support of an LGBTQ-inclusive Mesa is broader than the opposition’s is.”

Mickelsen said if enough qualifying signatures remain after the review and verifying process then the referendum will go on the ballot. Residents would then vote on the ordinance in November 2022 unless a special election is called before.

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