By: Michelle Chance
Arizona has gone from passing a bill that would have made it legal to discriminate against gay people (which was later vetoed by Gov. Brewer in February) to legalizing gay marriage less than a year later.
It goes without saying that supporters and members of the LGBTQ community in the state have experienced a political rollercoaster of controversy throughout the past year and most recently, victory.
The historical decision by a federal court judge prohibits Arizona from enforcing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 102, both anti-gay laws that outlawed gay marriage within the state.
In fact, more than 30 states have lifted their bans on gay marriage, either through state or federal decision.
Not to diminish the importance of this landmark and much deserved civil rights achievement, but despite the reasons to celebrate, one question inevitably nags, ‘Why did it take so long to get here?’
Arizona is arguably a notoriously conservative state with strict religious beliefs and a not-so progressive stance on many social issues, à la the aforementioned SB 1062, the infamous SB 1070 which legalized racial profiling, and both rhetoric and politics aimed against undocumented immigrants.
With that being said, our state has gained a negative reputation among many progressive states for being closed-minded and ‘backwards’.
Hence, looking at the state’s historical stance on gay marriage and other social issues, it is easy to understand why gay marriage is only now barely being recognized. And why the decision to end the ban on same-sex marriage is still so controversial to some.
Still, this is a weak excuse and tired stereotype that Arizonans need to stop perpetuating.
According to a poll taken by Public Policy Polling after the veto of SB 1062 in March, 49 percent of Arizonans support marriage equality.
The fact that almost half of a conservative state’s residents support gay marriage is a sign of progress, no matter how slow it is.
Nevertheless, Arizona is still heavily influenced by anti-gay forces, many of them state officials and politicians.
The Grand Canyon State still has a long way to go before progressive movements become easily accepted, but until then Arizona citizens have the opportunity to create a new reputation for our state which state officials have already tarnished for us.
Politics and beliefs aside, treating people fairly who may come from different backgrounds or non-traditional families is the least we can do for each other.
Supporting and promoting equality is still possible, even if it doesn’t fit the exact mold of our own personal beliefs.
Arizona has a chance to reinvent itself as a friendly, socially responsible state in the nation that boasts personal freedom. We can do this by welcoming and accepting the societal changes which inevitably occur after a wrong has finally been made right.
Equality is now finally granted to Arizona same-sex couples and although the decision was not made by the state itself, we now have the opportunity to embrace true change.