Last Sunday, my wife and I woke up to the horrific hate crime that happened in Orlando. Instead of a Sunday filled with love and friends, we were faced with tragedy and hatred towards our LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community.
It felt like a lifetime of progress had been wiped out in a night. The gunman entered a space that for years had served as a safe haven, and took away the hopes, dreams and opportunity of 49 innocent people. His actions rocked the sense of security and freedom we believed we had gained to live our lives without fear as a loving LGBT family.
We have created a climate in this country that breeds anti-LGBT hate and demonstrative actions. Where on any given day, a gay or transgender person may be harassed, bullied, hurt, or even killed. Where a pastor from our own backyard in Tempe hails the Orlando massacre for “leaving 50 less pedophiles in this world.”
It is a climate where a prominent policy group tries to shame our efforts to ensure Arizona is welcoming to all, denigrating our message by saying we are trying to politicize our safety and human rights. And where just one day after the shooting, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom and the Center for Arizona Policy hosted a conference instructing school officials on the best way to legally avoid creating an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all students.
In the majority of states in this country, including in over 60 percent of Arizona, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone, kick them out of an apartment, or refuse them service at a business simply because of who we are. Just two years ago, Gov. Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a policy seeking to encourage discrimination against LGBT people, similar to the bills we’ve seen in Indiana and North Carolina. In the past six months, more than 140 bills seeking to harm LGBT people were introduced in state legislatures.
It’s time for a change. So in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, I am asking all Arizonans to put hate and intolerance aside. We have a responsibility to use our collective power to create an Arizona that is open, welcoming, and inclusive to everyone. I believe in an Arizona that treats all people with fairness, kindness, and dignity. But to create that Arizona, we need your help.
In the coming weeks and months, ONE Community, will be showcasing the voices of those who are standing up and saying, “Enough is enough. Let’s stop talking and start doing.”
We are Arizonans from varying backgrounds who want to put an end to the political rhetoric that tears down LGBT people. We are Arizonans who want to update our state policies to protect all people from discrimination. We are Arizonans — 1,800 businesses big and small, 150 faith leaders from all denominations, and literally thousands of individuals of all ages, races, and creeds — who want Arizona and this country to know: we are open for business to everyone.
In the wake of the tragic events in Orlando, we need you to join us. By signing the UNITY Pledge, and asking your family, friends and neighbors to do the same, you are sending a message: we stand in unity and together we will move this state forward and create opportunity for all.
Editor’s note: Ms. Hughey is co-founder and president of ONE Community