One of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s appointees to the state’s Tourism Advisory Council quit on Tuesday over her administration’s legal fight to deny gay couples domestic partner benefits.
In a letter to the governor, Edwin Leslie reminded Brewer of her Independence Day official statement this year where she talked about how citizens of the United States “have been blessed with liberties and inalienable rights that make us truly and uniquely American.”
“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 U.S.,” Leslie wrote to the governor. “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.”
Leslie founded and remains the chief executive of Bridlie Hospitality Management. Brewer appointed him to the tourism council in 2010.
In the letter Leslie also makes clear he believes this move will impact tourism and in this regard will be financially detrimental to the state. This is a view shared by local tourism agencies.
Michael McFall is the publisher of “Arizona Pride Guide,” a tourism guide read by more than 380,000 coast to coast. According to his figures, Arizona is the seventh-most-popular destination among gay tourists in the U.S. and third among gay international travelers. Nationally, those tourists spend more than $80 billion a year, and in Arizona, they bring in about $122 million, he said.
McFall said about 30 percent of the people who relocate to Arizona are gay. His figures are gleaned from marketing companies and company research.
That is a sizable demographic to alienate.
Leslie’s resignation is in direct reference to the fact that Governor Brewer’s administration in 2009, overturning a year-old recognition of same-sex partnerships allowed by Former Gov. Janet Napolitano, made it so that only the spouses of married workers would be entitled to benefits, and gay couples can’t marry in Arizona.
The administration has continually defended this change as a necessary means of limiting expenditures and has characterized its defense of the move, which it has now appealed to the US Supreme Court, as a matter of state governance and autonomy. This is despite a federal district court and a circuit appeals court finding the move unconstitutional as, they said, it explicitly sort to disenfranchise gay and lesbian employees.