LGBT Phoenicians gain traction
Phoenix is certainly known for its conservative politics and Barry Goldwater and other political icons, but the city's LGBT advocacy groups continue to gain traction in spite of the valley's reputation.
The most recent example is a bill that would give married couples preferred status over single parents in the adoption process. State Rep. Warde Nichols (R-Gilbert) is the measure's sponsor, but local LGBT activists maintain the proposal is unfair to same-sex couples
"Arizona representatives are being fairly short sighted, with them being influenced by the ideas of the conservative right," Phillip Baker, co-chair of the Human Rights Campaign's Phoenix Steering Committee, said. "This is troubling because the bill that is being proposed will allow the state to legally give preference to married couples. Even though they are not saying this will affect LGBT couples, the reality is that it is just one more attempt to engage in a pattern of legal discrimination based on sexual orientation. Clearly an attempt by the conservative movement to indirectly roll back the positive changes we have made."
In spite of this and other legislative challenges, local activists continue to bring LGBT issues to the forefront. And this advocacy has translated into the political arena itself.
Neil Giuliano, who was the president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation from late 2005 through Jan. 2009, is one of the country's first openly gay mayors. Tempe voters elected for four consecutive terms from 1994 to 2004. And Giuliano told EDGE his sexual orientation did not prove a challenge during his mayoralty.
"When the mayor wants something, he can usually find a way to make it happen a lot faster than people realize," he said. "It happened at the pace I expected. Given all the other challenges and needs, I thought it happened at a pace that was appropriate."
Giuliano remains one of the area's most prominent LGBT residents, but Cindy and Meghan McCain have come out against neighboring California's Proposition 8. The proposed adoption bill, however, highlights anti-LGBT attitudes in the Grand Canyon State remain.
"The most important thing that the LGBT community can have right now is tenacity," Baker said. "This is what allowed us to break through the various obstacles that existed over the last 20 years."
Nichols pointed out the city of Phoenix's domestic partner registry, and the more than 8,000 people who have continue to support the HRC's local efforts as progress. And he added the valley could serve as a blueprint for other areas of the country where conservatives still garner significant influence.
"Phoenix is not like many other parts of the country where the LGBT community is openly embraced," Nichols said. "Instead, you have a wide variety of views ranging from very conservative to liberal. The important thing is to always remember that no matter what happens we are not going away."