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PHOENIX The Phoenix City Council was considering a proposal Tuesday to expand the city's anti-discrimination law to include protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in city contracts, housing, employment and public accommodations such as restaurants.

The city currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information and marital status.

More than 50 people spoke about the issue at a council hearing that was still going on Tuesday evening after more than four hours.

Mayor Greg Stanton said the changes would help Phoenix compete with more than 160 U.S. cities that already have enacted similar provisions.

"The more we embrace diversity, the better Phoenix will be for business, tourism, high-wage jobs and our future economy," Stanton said. "Updating our ordinance is the right thing to do. It's long past due."

He said approval of the proposal would mean employers could not fire someone for being gay and a hotel could not turn away a same-sex couple.

The proposal has drawn opposition from social conservatives and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The diocese contends the proposal is too broadly worded and could trample on religious liberties.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the vote should be postponed "until it gets a proper vetting." He called the proposal "extremist and radical for Phoenix" that could lead to lawsuits for all businesses that operate in the city and said "a more reasonable proposal and transparency is needed."

Councilman David Lujan said that as the nation's sixth largest city, Phoenix should take "leadership in adopting initiatives that make our city an attractive place to live, work and visit."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Associated Press,

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