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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.”