Feature image via the Tuscon Weekly
Edwin Leslie, appointed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to the State of Arizona Tourism Advisory Council, resigned on Tuesday in protest of Brewer's attempt to discontinue healthcare benefits for same-sex partners of state employees. Leslie, an openly gay family man, sent a two-page resignation letter detailing exactly why the Brewer administration's actions are hypocritical and how she may be shooting herself and her state in the foot.
On July 3, 2012 you released your official statement on our States celebration of Independence Day, your quote "For more than two centuries, citizens of this great country have been blessed with liberties and inalienable rights that make us truly and uniquely American. Over the coming days, let us take the opportunity to reflect on these freedoms – paying special tribute to our founders, whose courage and wisdom transformed sovereignty from vision to reality"
However, your actions taken on July 8, 2012 in determining to seek the Supreme Courts intervention in the State of Arizona’s duty to provide same sex domestic partners with insurance and other benefits are in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same "inalienable rights."
Furthermore, Leslie basically argues that Brewer is making his job more difficult, as she is directly affecting one of the demographics the Arizona tourism industry targets, and asks her to "put aside the politics and act responsibly in favor of the this critical part of our economy." Michael McFall, the publisher of the Arizona Pride Guide, has done marketing research indicating that Arizona ranks number seven on the list of most popular gay vacation destinations for LGBT travelers in the US, and third for international LGBT tourists. All in all, he estimates that this community of wanderers in particular spends 122 million dollars in Arizona alone.
When you contrast that with the 1.8 million dollars the state spends yearly on claims resulting from the same-sex partner health benefits, you begin to wonder why the Brewer administration would want to risk offending its veritable hordes of queer adventurers. Brewer claims that petitioning the Supreme Court to let Arizona halt these healthcare benefits is a cost-cutting measure for her state, but if Leslie and McFall's claims are true, it seems to be a revenue-cutting measure. McFall's data says that states with legislation and environments that welcome gay people are reaping the monetary benefits: Hawaii legalized civil unions and found itself more than 50 million dollars richer over the course of three years.
Brewer began trying to reverse the previous Governor's decision to provide state employees with same-sex medical coverage back in 2009. A few couples sued, and in September of 2011 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that "the law adversely affected a classification of employees on the basis of sexual orientation, and did not further any of the state's claimed justifiable interests" and "that the plaintiffs had established a likelihood of irreparable harm in the event coverage for partners ceased." On July 2nd, Brewer appealed to the United States Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit ruling, which is baffling because she's asking a federal court to stand up for her state's right to be mean to gay people when it's pretty clear that her state doesn't actually agree with her. Also. Doesn't Arizona have more immediate concerns to worry about?
I leave you with one final paragraph of Leslie's eloquent farewell:
Business, politics and the economy aside, my decision to resign the Tourism Council is rooted in the fiber of my conscience. The LGBT community, of which I am a proud part, deserves all of the same rights, privileges and liberties as every American, be it in domestic partner benefits, adoption, marriage or any other rights that are so freely enjoyed by every other person in the US. It is my hope that one day The State of Arizona leads the nation in extending benefits to LGBT families, allowing same sex marriage and adoption, and show that everyone is welcome in Arizona.
We are proud with you, Edwin Leslie. And we are just as sorry as you are that today is not that day for Arizona.