Ariz. state senator who fought recent bill says he’s gay

Steve Gallardo, Russell Pearce

Arizona State Sen. Steve Gallardo

A veteran Arizona lawmaker who was a vocal critic of a bill that touched off a national debate over discrimination came out as gay on Wednesday, saying “I wanted to let everyone know I am gay, I’m a Latino and I’m a state senator and it’s OK.”

The Associated Press reported that State Sen. Steve Gallardo said he felt the need to come out publicly partly because of the recent battle against a bill approved by the Arizona Legislature that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays based on religious beliefs.

“In the middle of that discussion, it dawned on me that this bill affects me directly, and seeing all the people come to the Capitol protesting and rallying around this bill solidified my thought and that it’s time for me to stand up and say, ‘This is who I am,’” he said.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill after strong opposition from the business community.

Gallardo, 45, said he also wants to send a message to members of the LGBT community who struggle with coming out as gay. He added that his family and friends have known about his sexuality for a long time.

The Phoenix Democrat is running for the open U.S. House seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Ed Pastor.

Gallardo served in the state House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009 and has been a state senator since 2011. He is one of three openly gay legislators in Arizona: Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Demion Clinco, D-Tucson. U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, has said she is bisexual.

Pastor’s announcement last month that he would not run for re-election is expected to set the stage for a contested Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District. The heavily Hispanic District is located entirely in Phoenix and is solidly Democratic.

—  Steve Ramos

Victory Fund endorses out lesbian Ann Johnson in Texas House race in Houston

The Washington D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund announced 17 endorsements Tuesday including Houston’s Ann Johnson.

Johnson, who is the daughter of former state Rep. Jake Johnson, ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary in House District 134. She will face against one-term Republican incumbent Sarah Davis in November.

Johnson is a former prosecutor who handles child advocacy cases in a private practice, representing victims of bullying and harassment in public schools.

If Johnson wins in November, she will be the second lesbian voters send to the state House after Mary Gonzalez’s election in the Democratic Primary in May. Gonzalez doesn’t have Republican opponent in the general election.

Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison said having two openly LGBT legislators join the Texas House would intensify the impact and change in dialogue among the conservative-controlled House.

“Ann’s deep experience as an assistant district attorney and legal advocate for kids makes her well-suited to serve in the Texas House,” he told Instant Tea. “She is carrying on her family’s impressive legacy of public service, and we are proud to support her campaign.”

Look for more about Gonzalez and Johnson in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  Anna Waugh

Is Gold’s Gym the new Target?

Robert Rowling

A few years back we wrote about how, unlike the vast majority of lodging chains, Omni Hotels doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Our reporting prompted the Irving-based company to agree to offer DP benefits at the city of Dallas’ new convention center hotel, which is being built by the city and will be operated by Omni. It remains to be seen whether Omni makes good on this promise, which didn’t come directly from the company but was communicated through city officials who were trying to get voters to sign off on a bond issue to finance construction of the hotel.

Anyhow, in our initial story, we told you a little about the owner of Omni parent company TRT Holdings, Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling. Rowling is a big-time Republican donor who’s contributed funds to some virulently anti-gay politicians over the years, including former Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum.

So it wasn’t overly surprising to learn last week, via Politico, that Rowling is among the leading donors to American Crossroads, the new group co-founded by Karl Rove. As Change.org notes, American Crossroads is working to help elect some of the biggest bigots on the ballot this year, including Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

Rowling has kicked in $2 million to American Crossroads, which puts him behind only fellow Texan and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who’s contributed about $7 million. Bob Perry, of course, is best known to the LGBT community for helping to bankroll, to the tune of $100,000, the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2005.

In fact, Rove has drawn heavily on his Texas buddies in general to fund American Crossroads, as other major donors include Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas; and Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons, of Swift Boat and Bill Ayers fame.

But none of the contributions to American Crossroads has drawn as much attention from the LGBT community as Rowling’s, which appears to be generating a virtual firestorm in the gay blogosphere. That’s because in addition to Omni Hotels, Rowling’s TRT Holdings owns Gold’s Gym, and apparently the only thing we hold more sacred than shopping at Target is working out.

Change.org has launched a petition, which now has more than 1,700 signatures, calling on Gold’s Gym to stop supporting anti-gay politicians, and the story was picked up by Towleroad, Joe.My.God. and The Advocate over the weekend.

In other words, it looks like Gold’s Gym is the new Target, so to speak, and aren’t we lucky to have the owner living right next to our gayborhood in Highland Park? But if Gold’s Gym is really the new Target, shouldn’t Omni Hotels be the new Best Buy?

—  John Wright

When will Ken Mehlman stop funding anti-gay politicians like his old boss Kay Granger?

Congresswoman Kay Granger

Change.org has a piece up about how despite his pledge to support gay rights, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman — who came out of the glass closet on Wednesday — has continued to give money to decidedly anti-gay politicians.

One of those anti-gay politicians is Mehlman’s one-time boss, Republican Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger. According to OpenSecrets.org, Mehlman gave $2,400 to Granger in December 2009.

Mehlman served as Granger’s chief of staff in the late 1990s. That’s where Mehlman met Karl Rove, who worked as a campaign consultant for Granger. Of course Mehlman and Rove would both later go on to work for President George W. Bush. (Remarkably, despite all these Texas ties, the state’s major newspapers said very little about Mehlman’s coming out in today’s editions.)

Granger, whose district covers the western half of Tarrant County as well as Wise and Parker counties, has consistently received a zero on LGBT issues in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. Most recently, Granger voted against DADT repeal this year and against LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation in 2009. Here’s a snippet of Granger’s prior voting record on gay rights from OnTheIssues.org:

• Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (November 2007)

• Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (July 2006)

• Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (September 2004)

• Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (July 1999)

It’s great that Mehlman has agreed to host a September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that’s fighting Prop 8 in court. But it’s difficult to even begin to forgive him for all harm he’s inflicted on the LGBT community when he’s continuing to help inflict it by supporting our enemies.

—  John Wright