Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo felt prompted to confess his gay identity after the backlash surrounding the controversial bill that would have permitted Arizona business owners to reject service to gays based on religious principles. Gallardo, the Senate’s Democratic minority whip, was a vocal opponent of the bill.
Gallardo said that seeing the protest surrounding the bill in the Capitol, in part, made him realize that it was time to announce his sexual identity. Gallardo said that he saw that this bill directly affected him and came out today saying that he is a Latino gay man who is also a state senator and that all of that is “OK.” He said, “This is who I am.”
The bill, SB 1062 or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act originally passed through the Arizona Legislature, but was vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer following the outcry and resistance against the measure from the business community, civil rights activists and clergy. Opponents of the bill saw the measure as a way to discriminate against the LGBT community legally.
Gallardo said that his decision to come out publicly was also driven by support for the LGBT community and those who are having a difficult time revealing their sexual identity. He wanted his announcement to serve as a message that it really is OK. Gallardo also said that his friends and family, who are devout Catholics, had known of his sexual orientation for the past 19 years.
Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo’s gay confession makes him the fourth Arizona politician that identifies with the LGBT community. Rep. Demion Clinco and Sen. Robert Meza are openly gay and U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said that she is bisexual. In a tweet, Meza congratulated Gallardo on his choice to come out as gay. He said that after years of being the “only openly gay Senator in Arizona” he welcomes Gallardo in joining him.
Gallardo said that his coming out does not have anything to do with his future in politics and that this decision was more important than what he hopes to achieve politically. Gallardo has revealed that he will be running for the Congressional District 7 seat’s Democratic nomination following U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor leaving the position after 11 terms for retirement. In addition to Gallardo, two others have announced as candidates. Gallardo is in his second term as a senator and prior to that served in the House of Representatives for three terms. As of now, Gallardo plans to finish out the rest of his time in the Senate and does not plan to resign as he seeks the congressional seat.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act or SB 1062, had a profound impact on Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo as he found a way to publicly confess his gay identity. Politically, Gallardo has not focused on the gay rights issue, but has instead turned his attention more to immigration, firmer campaign finance and disclosure law, and election reform. But he said that Feb. 19, the day the Arizona senate passed the bill, was a “game changer” and decided to act.
By Rebecca Hofland