Mayor Kate Gallego is in a State of Pride

By Timothy Rawles, April 2020 Issue.

Both Phoenix Pride

and Mayor Kate Gallego are celebrating special achievements this year.

Mayor Gallego is only the third female

mayor in the city’s history and Phoenix Pride is celebrating its 40th


These milestones are important because it

shows that Phoenix truly is progressing beyond the reaches of its conservative

past enough to be appealing for transplants who move to the state from

what they assume are more liberal parts of the country.

The LGBTQ community is especially concerned

where they land, because there are still some states that heavily discriminate

against them. Mayor Gallego wants to make it clear, to both natives and

visitors, that her city is inclusive and she made that clear from the time

she took office.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego by Tony Taafe.

“My first day as mayor I brought together

community advocates including several folks from the LGBT community,” Mayor

Gallego explained. “My first action was to sign the Mayors’ Compact to Combat

Hate, Extremism and Bigotry. And one of the reasons I wanted to do that on my

first day was to send a strong message that this is a key community

value, that I realize that diversity is our strength and that an inclusive

community is stronger, more resilient, and more prosperous.”

And stronger it is. The mayor says Phoenix

was just named the top city for LGBTQ retirees. And the LGBTQ dollar is making

an impact on the landscape.

“I would say that our LGBTQ community has

played a huge role in our downtown and our mid-town revitalization, changing

the face of Phoenix,” she said. “We have also been a leader in Arizona in terms

of LGBTQ elected officials; Kyrsten Sinema being probably the most prominent

example. But we have had, at many times our legislature has had, one of the

highest numbers of LGBTQ elected officials.”

Courtesy of the office of Mayor Kate Gallego.

Although there

is still some progress that needs to be made and recent news stories about a

proposed law by State Senator Sylvia Allen that would remove the term

“homosexual” from being taught in public schools is troublesome, Mayor Gallego

is quick to point out the city’s firsts for LGBTQ Pride.

“The transgender flag comes to the country

from Phoenix, Arizona,” she said. “We are the national origin. And I think

that’s important. We need to do a better job telling our story that Phoenix has

played a prominent role in pushing LGBTQ rights. We are proud that the city of

Phoenix has transgender-inclusive healthcare and we were one of the early

communities to adopt that.”

The state itself proved that they were

ready for LGBTQ rights in 2006 after voters defeated Proposition 107, making

the state the first to oppose a same-sex marriage ban.

Mayor Gallego thinks Arizona has always had

a strong respect for individual rights, it is a diverse area and so many

people have friends or family members from the LGBTQ community. “We want

everyone to be able to love who they love. But time and time again when

Arizonans are voting, which is an anonymous activity, they want LGBTQ elected

officials, we want allies, we want to vote for LGBTQ rights.”

She says she is going to be at Phoenix

Pride this year to mark its 40th anniversary. For her it’s not only

an achievement for the city, but in a way, it defines Phoenix.

“I think it’s an important opportunity to

celebrate on how far we’ve come and what we have achieved as a city,” the mayor

said. “But also recognize that we still have a lot of work to do. I am proud

that Phoenix has a non-discrimination ordinance, but I don’t think that your

city or zip code should determine whether you have protections from

discrimination. I am pushing for a day when all of Arizona is

protected by a non-discrimination law. It is wonderful that Phoenix and Tempe

and Tucson and some of our peer cities have stepped up to protect our

residents, but we need the entire state to do so.”

When asked if there is one place in Phoenix

that the LGBTQ community has adopted and wishes to spend their money, she says

she’s heard that the community feels welcome in every part of the city

and that’s important.

“Many people would point to Melrose as a

great example of a neighborhood where the LGBTQ community has helped build a

great sense of place,” she adds. “One of the things Mayor Stanton did was

rainbow crosswalks at places that are important to the LGBTQ community and one

of those is in Melrose, the other is downtown near the Roosevelt corridor in

the Southwest Center.”

The mayor has an LGBTQ advisor in her

office named Doug Mings, but many of her employees stay involved wherever they

can in the community.

“For example, my economic development

advisor, I challenge her to work on making sure that we have a more robust

LGBTQ tourism strategy,” she said.

Courtesy of the office of Mayor Kate Gallego.

“We have strong data that shows LGBTQ

tourists tend to spend more and stay longer, and I want to aggressively pursue

that business. I also think it’s important to where we started our

conversation, which is people don’t always know true Phoenix and if

tourists can come here and see what a welcoming progressive city we are, they

may want to do more business with us or even move to our community. But we are

aggressively pursuing large LGBTQ events including the National LGBTQ Chamber

of Commerce Convention. We also pursue smaller events. We actually have the

most significant non-profit for LGBTQ sports in our community and so I want to

take advantage of great partners like that to make sure whether it’s Chamber of

Commerce or volleyball that they feel welcome bringing events to Phoenix.”

One of the

things the mayor is trying to do is give voices to those who have historically

not had one. Groups of people who have been ignored from policymaking because

their perspective hasn’t been a part of the dialogue.

Annie DeGraw,

the mayor’s communications director says, “The new group that seems to have

that power now is young people, people of color and people who identify with

groups that haven’t traditionally been a part of the conversation even though

they make up a large portion of the community.”

In the end, it’s all about change and that

change has already started. Phoenix is becoming an LGBTQ destination and that

is in big part to Phoenix Pride which continues to grow every year.

Mayor Gallego wants to keep that momentum

going and hopefully make Arizona’s Urban Heart beam brighter with every color

of the rainbow.

“Our goal is to make Phoenix the preeminent city for the LGBT community,” she said. “We want to be a welcoming community that celebrates and supports all of our residents.”

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