Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo Tells Press: "I Am Gay, I'm A Latino, I'm A State Senator, And It's Okay"
"I am gay, I'm a Latino, I'm a state senator, and it's okay." That's what Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo announced to a cluster of reporters Wednesday, after his state came worryingly close to legalizing repugnant anti-gay bill SB 1062 last week. Gallardo, 45, is in the running for a U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Ed Pastor.
Gallardo told reporters that his decision to come out was bolstered by the fervor over SB 1062, vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer after a huge backlash against legalizing discrimination under religious grounds. The NFL even floated the possibility of pulling next year's Super Bowl out of Phoenix if the law went through. The tumultuous few days for Arizona steeled Gallardo's resolve to come out, he told press.
In the middle of that discussion, it dawned on me that this bill affects me directly, and seeing all the people come to the Capitol protesting and rallying around this bill solidified my thought and that it’s time for me to stand up and say, ‘This is who I am.’
Only Gallardo's close friends and family knew he was gay: he'd come out to his friends at 25, and to his family a few years later. But he called the events of Feb. 19, when the State Senate actually debated and passed SB 1062, "an actual game changer," and felt moved to go public with his sexuality to provide support for Arizona's LGBT community.
In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Gallardo described how uncomfortable he felt when hearing his elected colleagues making homophobic comments.
I can tell you this: You don't know how many times I've been in an elevator, I've been in a hallway, and one of my colleagues has made some type of derogatory comment. But I guarantee you now that they're not going to make it in front of me now. They now know that the person who's sitting next to them on the floor of the state senate is gay, that the legislation that they're introducing not only impacts the entire state of Arizona, but the person right next to them. The person who they talk to every day.
Now, Gallardo's announcement raises the number of openly-gay Arizona lawmakers to three: Gallardo, State Senator Robert Meza of Phoenix, and State Representative Demion Clinco of Tucson.
Unfortunately, as Bustle reported yesterday, an upcoming Supreme Court decision against chain Hobby Lobby could infringe the same rights that SB 1062 was designed to take away.
What does the failed Arizona anti-gay bill have in common with the conservative effort to let companies refuse to give employees access to free birth control through their health insurance? As it turns out, a lot. Although one pertains to LGBTQ rights and the other to women’s rights, the issues intersect at a very crucial point. And a Supreme Court decision on a case brought by chain Hobby Lobby could set a precedent for undermining gay rightsfor the sake of “religious reasons.” Which is, frankly, terrifying.