A gay appointee to the Arizona Tourism Advisory Council stepped down Tuesday in response to the legal battle against healthcare benefits for same-sex partners of state employees being waged by Governor Jan Brewer.
The Arizona Republic reports that Leslie, a hospitality-management company owner, sent a two-page letter to the Republican governor. He argued that her opposition to the benefits hurts the tourism economy while standing "in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same 'inalienable rights,’” as expressed in Brewer’s official Independence Day declaration.
Earlier this month, Brewer asked the Supreme Court to review a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that stopped a law that would have eliminated the benefits from taking effect last year. Attorney general Tom Horne said that eliminating the benefits, which cost the state $1.8 million annually for 233 active employees and retirees, “furthers the state’s interest in promoting marriage,” according to the Republic.
Michael McFall, publisher of the Arizona Pride Guide, told the newspaper that gay tourists bring an estimated $122 million to the state annually. He said that Arizona was the seventh-most popular destination among gay domestic tourists.
Leslie, who lives in Phoenix with his partner and son, told the governor that he believed it was his professional and personal duty to resign.
“Business, politics and the economy aside, my decision to resign the Tourism Council is rooted in the fiber of my conscience,” he wrote. “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.”
A Brewer spokesman told the Republic that Leslie’s resignation and his manner of announcing it were “regrettable.”
"And it's even more regrettable that he has opted to politicize that decision in this manner," said Matthew Benson. "The governor doesn't believe in ceding to a federal court the authority of Arizona's duly elected officials (to make budget decisions)."