By: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer
PHOENIX, AZ — Four gay lawmakers have launched the first ever in the history of the Arizona Legislature, its first LGBTQ caucus at the Capitol. The new caucus is designed to harness the LGBTQ community’s economic power and too push harder for equality in the state of Arizona.
On National Coming Out Day, Wednesday Oct. 11, LGBT lawmakers and Democratic leadership held a press conference in the rose garden on the Capitol grounds to announce the newly-formed LGBTQ caucus.
Representatives on hand for the announcement were State Rep. Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete, Rep. Daniel Hernandez, Sen. Robert Meza and Rep. César Chávez. The group said the that they will ensure issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arizonans get the attention of the governor’s office and lawmakers.
One of the founding members of the LGBTQ caucaus, State Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, said…”While marriage equality for same-sex couples was a good first step, Arizona still has far to go.” said Hernandez.
Hernandez made it a point to say that it is legal in most of Arizona for an employer to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. That’s because Arizona has no statewide law that would prohibit this type of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Though one must point out that major cities such as Phoenix and Tucson do hvae such protections in place.
“For us, this is a really important time because when we are under threat at the national level, it is more important now than ever that we at the local and state level step up,” added Hernandez.
Currently the Arizona state Legislature has four openly-gay lawmakers. That is less than 4 percent of the 90-member body.
House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, said..”While the Legislature has more LGBT lawmakers than it did 22 years ago — when Ken Cheuvront was elected as the first openly-gay state lawmaker — their voice still isn’t heard loudly enough. This is a community that has not had adequate representation at the Capitol,” said Rios.
While it is true that the newly formed LGBTQ caucus is set to face uphill battles in the conservative-Republican-dominated Legislature, said Chavez however he says that it will only motivate their determination in leveraging the LGBTQ community’s “buying power,” particularly with Gov. Doug Ducey given his focus on economic prosperity.
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