Senator Steve Gallardo Comes Out: "I'm Gay, I'm a Latino, and I'm a State Senator"

Sitting in the Senate Caucus room with a handful of reporters a week and a half after he delivered a rousing speech to activists protesting against an anti-gay measure at the Capitol, state Senator Steve Gallardo says it's time to announce his sexual orientation.

"I'm gay, I'm a Latino, and I'm a senator," he says, his voice quavering with emotion. "And it's okay."

See also: -Gay and Undocumented: Some, Like Dagoberto Bailón, Must Come Out Twice

Watching activists fighting against SB 1062, a bill that provided legal cover for business owner who chose to discriminate against gays and transgender persons, inspired him to speak out, he says.

Brewer vetoed the bill, but Gallardo says the debate was "actually a game changer."

"After I stood up on the floor and argued against 1062, as I've done on many bills before, I sat down and said, 'Wow. This bill affects me. It affects me directly.'"

"Seeing the people out there, protesting. I thought it's time," he says. "It's time to let people know about me. And to send people a message. I'm more interested in letting people who struggle with this know that it's okay."

As for how this may affect his congressional aspirations, he says he doesn't care, that he hasn't even thought about that.

"I couldn't care less. This is about standing up and doing the right thing," he says.

Gallardo has announced that he's running for a seat in Arizona's Congressional District 7, which longtime Congressman Ed Pastor is leaving vacant when he retires at the end of his term.

Gallardo wants his colleagues to know that the comments they make when they are debating these issues directly affects people sitting next to them.

He says he never hid the fact that he was gay, and no one ever asked him. And it wasn't a secret in his personal life. He came out to his friends when he was about 25 years old and to his family of devout Catholics about five years later.

The 44-year-old lawmaker summed up reaction from his family and friends on coming out today.

"My family asked me, 'Why do you have to do this?' And my friends said, 'It's about time.'"

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo