Metro Weekly

Gay Arizona Official Resigns in Protest of Gov. Brewer

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s attempt to deny benefits to state employees in same-sex relationships cost her a civil servant on Tuesday.

Edwin Leslie, who until yesterday served as a member of the Arizona Tourism Advisory Council, resigned from his appointment in protest after the Republican governor’s continued attempts to revoke benefits for same-sex couples that work for the state, reports The Arizona Republic.

Earlier this month Brewer filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court reverse a September 2011 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to prevent Arizona from implementing a 2009 law that would revoke health care benefits for state employees with same-sex partners. Supporters of the law have dubbed it a cost-saving device, but opponents say it is discriminatory. So far, an appellate court and a district court have agreed.

Leslie, who lives with his partner and their son in Phoenix, delivered his resignation to Brewer after she decided to appeal the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court on July 2. In his letter, Leslie calls out Brewer for remarks she made during Fourth of July celebrations.

“Your actions taken on July 8, 2012 in determining to seek the Supreme Courts intervention in the State of Arizona’s duty to provide same sex domestic partners with insurance and other benefits are in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same ‘inalienable rights,'” wrote Leslie.

According to Leslie, Brewer’s actions could cost Arizona in tourism dollars because of the harsh message she has sent to gay couples around the country.

“Your actions discriminate against one part of the State’s residents to appease a small fraction of the population,” Leslie writes, adding that it is his duty as a councilmember to remind her that her actions are harmful to the success of Arizona’s tourism industry.

Michael McFall, publisher of Arizona Pride Guide, told The Arizona Republic that the state is the seventh most popular destination in the country for gay American tourists and third most popular for gay international tourists. McFall estimates gay travelers bring in $122 million to Arizona each year.

Nevertheless, a Brewer spokesman said it was “regrettable” Leslie had chosen to politicize an issue that is ultimately about saving the state money.

“The governor doesn’t believe in ceding to a federal court the authority of Arizona’s duly elected officials,” Matthew Benson told The Arizona Republic.

Plaintiffs in the case have until August 6 to submit their response to Brewer’s petition.

READ Leslie’s resignation letter here: resignationtourismboard.pdf

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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