I may live and work in New York, but my heart, my roots and, yes, a beautiful home I own with my partner of 23 years (now my fiancé!) are in Arizona. To my great dismay, my home state has lately been acquiring a reputation as a right wing, out-of-touch backwater, as much as it hurts to say it. I’m convinced that people have reached this conclusion largely due to nationwide coverage of some of the more backward political personalities like Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. To wit, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen the photo of Brewer wagging her finger in the face of President Obama on an airport tarmac.
As is usually the case, however, the truth is more nuanced. People often forget that Brewer only became governor when Janet Napolitano resigned to become the first woman to serve as the United States Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) in the Obama Administration. Gov. Napolitano is quite progressive, with an excellent track record of support for diversity and inclusion, and is a great friend to the LGBT community.
While in office, Napolitano issued an executive order requiring that state employee benefits be extended to the partners of unmarried state employees (including those in the university system). Since gay marriage is non-existent in Arizona, it would be impossible for same-sex couples to have the rights to state employees’ medical benefits, etc. As a result, partnered gay employees were being unfairly treated and discriminated against. Napolitano’s executive order rectified this situation. Once Brewer took over as Governor, one of her first moves was to repeal the executive order providing domestic partner benefits for state workers - under the guise of needing to save the state money. A ridiculous position, since a mere 250 or so people were taking advantage of this benefit at the time.