State Senator Steve Gallardo of Arizona came out as gay after being inspired by the recent conflict over SB 1062, the Arizona bill that would have allowed discrimination against the LGBT community.

I’m gay, I’m a Latino, and I’m a senator. And it’s okay,” Gallardo told reporters on Wednesday.

Gallardo has been out to his friends and family for over a decade, and says that he was encouraged to come out to the public after seeing all the support for the LGBT community in the fight to get SB 1062 vetoed. He himself has been incredibly vocal in his opposition to the bill.

“Seeing the people out there, protesting. I thought, it’s time. It’s time to let people know me. And to send people a message. I’m more interested in letting people who struggle with this know that it’s okay,” Gallardo said following his announcement.

The announcement comes a little over a week after Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

In an interview with the local news, Gallardo emphasized that his announcement was not a publicity stunt for his campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, saying, “It’s bigger than a race, it’s bigger than me.”

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“This is about taking a stance. This is about changing directions here in the state of Arizona,” Gallardo proclaimed.

Gallardo hopes that his coming out will inspire a more open and honest discussion about LGBT rights in the state of Arizona and that it will force members of the Arizona state legislature to understand those they might chose to discriminate against in the law.

“They now know that the person who’s sitting next to them on the floor of the state senate is gay, that the legislation that they’re introducing not only impacts the entire state of Arizona, but the person right next to them. The person who they talk to every day,” Gallardo said in an interview.

“I’m opening up this for debate again. I’m forcing people to talk about it. I’m bringing it to the attention of some of my colleagues. I’m hoping I at least make people think twice,” Gallardo added.

But, the decision to come out is not just about the possible political ramifications. Gallardo says he hopes that his coming out will help others who are struggling with their sexuality, which is why, when coming out, he sent the message of “it’s okay.”

Gallardo says that even if his coming out ruins his political career, he will be proud of his decision.

“I don’t care about the congressional race, I don’t know if it helps me or hurts me, this is bigger than any race… If I can make it easier for just one person, it’s worth it,” Gallardo said.

Openly gay Arizona State Senator, Robert Meza was quick to reach out to Gallardo on Wednesday, tweeting his support.

Sen. Steve Gallardo Also Opposed SB 1070

Gallardo has been working in state government since 2002 when he was elected to the State House of Representatives and has made a name for himself as advocating for education reform, bettering public schools, and a loud opponent to Arizona’s now infamous SB 1070 law that would allow police to ask those suspected of being illegal immigrants for their legal papers. In early February, Gallardo introduced a new bill, SB 1299, with his colleagues, with the aim of repealing SB 1070.

“We are going on our fourth year with Senate Bill 1070 enacted in the state of Arizona, one of the most polarizing bills ever to be introduced, the one bill that has put a black cloud and black heart on the state of Arizona,” Gallardo said when announcing his proposed bill.

Gallardo has also been a vocal opponent to HB2281, a bill that essentially outlawed any Ethnic Studies curriculum.

“The legislation is so broad and vague that a ban of this program denies students their first amendment right of having open academic discussions,” Gallardo said in 2011.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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