Equality Arizona Endorses Kate Gallego in Phoenix's District 8 City Council Race

Kate Gallego's impressive performance in the August race for a seat representing Phoenix's Eighth District has earned her an endorsement from Equality Arizona.

Gallego nearly won the race outright with 47 percent, but was just shy of the 50-percent-plus-one threshold needed to avoid the November 5 runoff election.

Pastor Warren Stewart, one of several other candidates in the District 8 race, came in second place with 21.85 percent of the votes, or 2,882 ballots. By comparison, voters cast 6,207 ballots for Gallego.

See also: -Black Leaders in Phoenix Struggle to Retain Power in District -Undocumented Activist Criticizes Pastor Warren Stewart For Stance of Gay Issues

Citing Gallego's "proven record of support for the LGBTQ community," the non-profit organization voted to support her over Stewart.

Equality Arizona is an advocacy group working to "secure, protect and defend equal civil rights" of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in Arizona.

Rebecca Wininger, president of EQ AZ, said in a statement announcing their support of Gallego that "District 8 needs a strong advocate for equality, and Kate is clearly the right choice for this role. We believe she will do right by our community and all the people in her district."

Stewart, senior pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church, has come under fire from the LGBT community for a letter he wrote after President Barack Obama publicly supported same-sex marriage.

In that letter, which has since been removed from the church's website, Stewart wrote that "supporters of same-sex marriage are contributing to the widespread dysfunction of marriage" and "that the legalization of same-sex marriage will eventually lead to the legalization of polygamy."

Scott Phelps, Stewart's campaign spokesman, previously has told New Times that Stewart addressed his views on same-sex marriage early on in the campaign.

"I think he freely admits that as a Baptist minister, 'Same-sex marriage in the church is not something I'm going to be able to do," Phelps says. "But when it comes to civil unions and all the benefits, his view is that, 'I'm there for you, and I'll fight with you.'"

Stewart has acknowledged the struggles of the LGBTQ community in campaign speeches.

"Let's face it, we have things to talk about," Stewart said in a speech delivered early in his campaign. "We need to reach out to the Latino community and the LGBT community -- and make their challenges our own."

In answer to an EQ AZ questionnaire that appeared in Echo Magazine, Gallego outlined her longstanding support on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

She wrote:

I am a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights and candidates. I have been active in the fight for marriage equality, creating the first door-to-door campaign for young people to campaign against Prop 107 in 2006 and more recently, as chair of candidate recruitment for the Arizona Democratic Party, recruiting LGBTQ candidates to run for office in Maricopa County.

I was the only District 8 candidate to speak in favor of the anti-discrimination ordinance at the city council hearing. I have worked with many technology companies in other states and know that they value equality--they won't move invest in a community unless they know it welcomes their employees. I believe my business background allows me to use jobs-related arguments to reach out to citizens who have not been receptive to other arguments in favor of equality.

Here are some of Stewart's responses in that same questionnaire, one he answered to "alleviate any mischaracterizations ... regarding my stance on human rights." Describe your future plans while in office and beyond as it pertains to EQAZ and the LGBTQ community.

My plan is to ensure that both the nondiscrimination and domestic partnership policies stay in tact. Should anyone on the council think about denying equal protection to the LGBTQ community when it comes to housing, employment, hospital visitation rights, domestic-partner health benefits, and civil unions - they're going to have to fight me toe to toe. I have taken on Governor Meacham, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and been in that arena my entire life, and I have a history of winning those fights.

The City of Phoenix recently amended its nondiscrimination policy to prohibit discrimination in matters of housing, employment and leisure facilities on the basis of disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. How would you have voted on this ordinance?

I would have voted "yes" - as I believe no person should be discriminated against based on color, income, creed or sexual orientation.

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