Gay rights activists said Wednesday’s sit-down with Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross was a good first step toward reversing the perception that the city is hostile to the gay community.
“I think Scottsdale is absolutely on stride to combat an image issue and the crimes that are out there right now,” said Barbara McCullough-Jones, executive director of Equality Arizona, a Phoenix-based gay rights group. “These folks are on our side.”
Talks between city officials and activists are expected to continue and ultimately result in some city action meant to reassure gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered that it’s safe to come to Scottsdale, McCullough-Jones said.
Manross pointed to an ordinance under consideration by the city’s Human Relations Committee that, if approved by the City Council, would prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.
“We have the same interests, the same goals and the same concerns when it comes to diversity in our community,” Manross said. “Scottsdale is a very welcoming community. We have tried to demonstrate through all our actions over the years that we care about being inclusive.”
Manross, along with Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Don Logan, the city’s diversity and dialogue director, met with McCullough-Jones and other Equality Arizona members Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to diffuse the national attention the city has received for several recent incidents involving the LGBT community.
Incidents that caught the attention of local activists and the New-York based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination include two separate attacks on gay men within the last nine months, a local club owner’s decision to ban transgendered people from his Old Town nightclub after female patrons complained about them using the women’s restroom and men harassed them in the men’s restroom, and Manross’ decision to alter a proclamation meant to honor the contributions of gay residents so much that the final product didn’t even mention gays.
Manross attributed the dissatisfaction many felt about the revised proclamation, issued in June, to a “misunderstanding,” and said the changes were meant to make the document more inclusive. She said she doesn’t feel she made a mistake by changing its wording.
“I really felt it was very narrowly worded and narrowly focused,” Manross said.
At the time, some in the gay community called the changes an insult and a slap in the face, and accused the mayor of turning a blind eye toward increasing hostility against them.
Rodbell said the two recent attacks on gay men are still under investigation.
One of the victims, Nicholas Gearing, 27, who was attacked outside an Old Town bar in June, said that despite some initial missteps, police have done a good job.
“I’d never run into an instance like that. You get that shocked feeling, then you feel kind of sad and don’t know what to do,” Gearing said. “I’m not going to allow this to be a situation that makes me fearful to hang out in Scottsdale.”
He said the mayor’s appearance with gay rights advocates is reassuring.
“It definitely makes me feel a lot better,” Gearing said. “It’s nice to hear her firsthand.”
McCullough-Jones said Manross demonstrated a commitment to making Scottsdale safe for LGBT visitors.
“We’re going to continue to provide assistance, whatever they ask for,” McCullough-Jones said. “I think there will be some end result to this.”