Edwin Leslie was appointed to the Arizona Tourism Advisory Council by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2010. On Tuesday, he stepped down from his position in protest of the governor's latest move against same-sex benefits for state employees.
Leslie, who lives with his partner and their son in Phoenix, announced his resignation in a letter to Brewer. In it, he decries the governor's recent decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an earlier federal court ruling that allowed state-employed workers to keep same-sex partners on their benefits. The court's decision had found unconstitutional the part of a 2009 measure, passed by the state legislature and approved by Brewer, that prevented benefits, such as health insurance, from being shared by such couples.
The governor's decision to combat the court's ruling is "in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same 'inalienable rights,'" Leslie wrote, referring to an Independence Day address given last week by Brewer.
"The LGBT community, of which I am a proud part, deserves all of the same rights, privileges and liberties as every American, be it in domestic partner benefits, adoption, marriage or any other rights that are so freely enjoyed by every other person in the U.S.," Leslie continued. "It is my hope that one day the state of Arizona leads the nation in extending benefits to LGBT families, allowing same sex marriage and adoption, and show that everyone is welcome in Arizona."
Leslie goes on to claim Brewer's action will end up damaging the state's tourism industry, which sees significant revenues from members of the LGBT community. He also charges that the governor has chosen to "discriminate against one part of the State’s residents to appease a small fraction of the population," citing a recent poll that shows the state's residents to be largely supportive of gay marriage rights.
According to Benson, the move to deny benefits to same-sex couples is instead about cost control. Brewer "doesn't believe in ceding to a federal court the authority of Arizona's duly elected officials," he said.
The Arizona Republic relays some of the most recent figures about the current status of the state's recipients of same-sex benefits.
The state has 230 active state and university employees and three retirees who receive same-sex domestic medical coverage, according to figures from the state Department of Administration. Currently, they cost the state $1.8 million yearly for their claims and dependents' claims.
In comparison, Michael McFall, publisher of "Arizona Pride Guide," tells the Republic that LGBT tourism brings in about $122 million to the state annually.
Leslie's entire letter is below.