fter the sudden withdrawal of a challenge, Mesa's Non-Discrimination Ordinance will go into effect at the end of June.
On March 1, Mesa City Council approved an ordinance “prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, veteran’s status, marital status, or familial status, with certain exclusions.”
The group United for Mesa seemed to have enough signatures to stop the ordinance and put the issue to voters. But, in a release emailed to news organizations late Friday afternoon, the group stated, "United for Mesa will stipulate to a court judgment that will keep a referendum on Mesa’s non-discrimination ordinance off the ballot, citing legal technicalities and the deep pockets of the opposition lobby."
The email was not signed, as leadership of United for Mesa remains under-the-radar.
The withdrawal came after another group, Mesa Loves Everyone, filed a complaint challenging United for Mesa's signatures. Those signatures made it through scrutiny by the city and county. On Wednesday, city spokesman Randy Poilcar emailed a statement: "Maricopa County has completed their review and certified the referendum signatures. The challenge period is now open."
United for Mesa met an April 1 deadline, delivering a petition with nearly 11,500 signatures, well above the minimum needed.
Two weeks ago, according to Policar, Mesa's city clerk disqualified 338 signatures, leaving 11,167 for a random sample by the county.
Mayor John Giles, who has been an advocate for the ordinance, also issued a statement Friday night.
"Mesa’s non-discrimination ordinance is about bringing people together," Giles added. "It confirms to all – residents and visitors alike – that our city is welcoming and inclusive.
"Today I learned that our city’s ordinance is no longer being challenged by a referendum, allowing it to go into effect on June 29, 2021. I’m looking forward with optimism and hope—inspired by the compassion of our community. Let’s continue to work together to ensure Mesa is a place where all people can live, play and work with confidence that they will be treated with dignity and respect.”
By contrast, United for Mesa's statement was defiant, complaining it was up against "the deep pockets of a nationally funded opposition... It is disappointing but unsurprising that these kinds of tactics are being utilized to silence the clear voices of Mesa residents."
And, the group trying to shoot down the ordinance promised, "This is by no means our last effort. The need for Mesa residents to have a say in the direction of their city remains. And citizen concerns about this ordinance have not magically gone away. Mesa is awakened and united.”
Passed by a 5-2 vote March 1, with a 120-day buffer “for public education.” After that, first violations are subject to up to $300 fines. Fines of repeat offenders could be as high as $2,500.