Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Democrat representing Phoenix in the State Senate, announced that he is gay on Wednesday, partially in reaction to the state's recently vetoed effort to permit businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people or anyone else on the basis of a "sincerely held religious belief."
In a frank, emotional conversation with the Arizona Republic, Gallardo reflected on the challenges of growing up gay in a Catholic Latino family.
"They call it 'the g-word," he explained. "You don't talk about 'gay.' You don't bring up that type of discussion at Nana's house on Sunday."
Gallardo said his family knew about his orientation, but never openly acknowledged it, which is why he didn't come out to his family until he was 30 years old. That silence is what Gallardo hopes to combat by coming out publicly now.
"I wanted to tell people, to say, 'it's OK,'" Gallardo said, his voice breaking. "There's hundreds, if not thousands of people that go through the same thing."
Gallardo said his decision to come out was personal and not calculated in terms of his political future, though it is significant since the two-term state senator recently announced his plans to seek the Democratic nomination to represent Arizona's Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is being vacated by current Rep. Ed Pastor, also a Democrat, according to the Republic. If Gallardo were elected to Congress, he would become the second out LGBT person of color to serve in the national body, alongside California Democrat Rep. Mark Takano.
"I am gay, I am Latino, and I'm a Senator," Gallardo proudly concludes. "And it's OK."
Gallardo said he intends to continue serving in the State Senate while he pursues the congressional seat. With Gallardo's coming out, Arizona's state legislature has three openly gay members, all of whom are Democrats. The other two out lawmakers are Sen. Robert Meza of Phoenix and Rep. Demion Clinco of Tucson.
Watch the Republic clip below.