As Arizona Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Case Challenging Governors Anti-Discrimination Order, Lambda Legal Vows To Fend Off Future Legal Attacks

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Governor Napolitano's Executive Order prohibiting anti-gay discrimination in state employment will stand
October 30, 2003

(Phoenix, October 30, 2003) -- Lambda Legal today welcomed the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a lawsuit challenging Gov. Janet Napolitano’s executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation against state employees. Lambda Legal also said today that if a lawsuit is filed in a lower court to challenge the executive order, it will defend the governor’s ability to set policy safeguarding state employees’ civil rights. In late July, six state legislators asked the state Supreme Court to overturn Napolitano’s order, claiming the governor lacks the authority to set such a policy. By refusing to hear the case, the Arizona Supreme Court let the protections stand. “We are pleased that the Arizona Supreme Court refused to hear a case that would have put hundreds of state employees at risk,” said Jon Davidson, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal in its Western Regional Office. “It is absolutely clear that Gov. Napolitano acted as a responsible chief executive well within her authority under Arizona’s Constitution to set policy for state employees she oversees.” Lambda Legal worked with the Arizona Attorney General’s office and the Arizona Human Rights Fund to defend the governor’s order against the challenge. Arizona governors have used their authority to issue executive orders for decades to enhance equal employment opportunities within their administrations on a wide variety of bases, according to Lambda Legal. Decades of executive orders at state and federal levels have protected public employees from discrimination, and the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington have issued executive orders banning anti-gay discrimination against state employees over the last two decades. A similar federal executive order has been in place since 1998. Dating back to the 1940s, executive orders have protected public employees from discrimination based on race, sex and other factors. According to Lambda Legal, Napolitano’s executive order is also a smart business move and a wise risk-management measure. Explicitly prohibiting anti-gay discrimination helps protect the state from liability in employment litigation, and it also creates a more productive and stable workforce. “This is good business,” Davidson said. “Every governor functions like a corporation’s CEO when it comes to state employees. Gov. Napolitano has taken a step that’s in line with what the best and brightest employers in Arizona and the nation are seeing as a smart way to manage risk while increasing worker productivity and retention.” Dozens of respected studies over the last 20 years that show the widespread existence and harms of discrimination against lesbian and gay employees - and the impact those harms have on employees’ ability to focus on their work and stay in their jobs for long periods of time. The states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation among state employees include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The case is Biggs v. Napolitano. Lambda Legal’s cooperating attorneys on the case are Laurie Hasencamp and Lawrence Rosenfeld and Michael Lungaretti of Greenberg Traurig LLP, the largest national or international law firm with offices in Arizona. # # #

Contact: Fred Shank, 212/809-8585 x 267



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