If you're looking for a destination to replace Fort Lauderdale on your vacation list, you might want to consider the increasingly gay-friendly state of Arizona. After making history as the first state to reject an anti-gay marriage amendment, one community in the state is now tackling the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.
The city of Tucson announced today that its mayor and city council have approved a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the military's ban. The resolution, which can be found in its entirety here, has been sent to President Bush and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation . . . including Senator John McCain.
The land of Goldwater, it seems, is making an LGBT-friendly comeback.
Earlier this week, the state's senior Senator told a group of high school students in New Hampshire that he supports the military's exclusion of gay troops. In fact, McCain has repeatedly refused to revisit the law, citing General Colin Powell (who has now acknowledged that repeal is coming) for his defense of the ban.
The voters in Tucson, however, sent Senator McCain a loud wake-up call this morning: It's time to dump "Don't Ask" and allow gay service members to serve openly.
"This policy represents the only example in the United States of legislation that requires discrimination," said Pamela Liberty, co-chair of the City of Tucson GLBT Commission. "On average, two service members each day are discharged solely on the basis of sexual orientation. . . . We are proud of our Mayor and Council Members for adding their voices to the growing demand to end this discriminatory policy."
Arizona is home to more than 22,500 gay veterans, and Tucson made a strong show of support for their service to our country. The city follows in the footsteps of New York, San Francisco, Saint Louis and Portland, Oregon, who have all previously issued similar resolutions. The Tuscon resolution states in part that "Military readiness is enhanced when every qualified, capable American, regardless of sexual orientation, is welcomed into our Armed Forces and has his or her talents utilized in the best interest of our national security."
Two members of Arizona's delegation in Washington have already signed as co-sponsors of House legislation to lift the ban. Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) are among 131 bi-partisan co-sponsors of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act. But Senator McCain - woefully out of touch with his constituents and the rest of the country - has refused to budge on the issue.
Today, Tucson effectively told McCain to "take that."
Of course, it's unlikely that McCain will change his opinion, but at least he knows that his home state voters couldn't disagree more with the position he has staked out. And more and more, the public is calling out politicians who refuse to treat LGBT Americans equally. In that high school gathering earlier this week, one student, when McCain said "I do not" in response to a question about whether he supports LGBT people, told the Senator that "I came here to see a good leader. I do not."
As McCain continues to move further and further outside of the mainstream, there's even some speculation that his Senate career is increasingly in jeopardy. One recent poll showed that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (who has also criticized the military policy) could take McCain's seat in the chamber when his term is up in 2010.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel an Arizona state of mind coming on.
(For those who would like to learn more about working on local resolutions in their hometowns, there's information on how to follow Tucson's lead online at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.)