On September 2, 2013, Democratic Perspective hosted gay rights activist, Mark Luckey. Luckey is president of Sedona Pride, representing the LBGT community for the entire Verde Valley of Northern Arizona. Our co-hosts, Steve Williamson and Mike Cosentino, began the interview by noting the change in attitude toward gay rights referring to a recent statement from the Pope that he wouldn’t make judgments on the sexuality of others.
We then turned to what’s happening in the Verde Valley. “There’s actually a lot going on,” said Mark. “The City of Jerome passed a civil union ordinance. It was very interesting to see that. Sedona Pride and Verde Valley Pride are working with the cities of Cottonwood and Sedona to pass civil union ordinances, as well.”
When asked about attitudes in the Verde Valley, Luckey responded, “I think the LGBT community in the Verde Valley is very supported by the rest of the community. I don’t have a problem walking down the street here anymore. I’ve been here seven years now. I’ve always felt that Cottonwood, Sedona, Clarkdale, Jerome and Camp Verde have been very welcoming.”
When asked about changes, Luckey replied, “It has changed very considerably. There’s still things to be done. There’s still kids who are being bullied for being gay…people getting picked on all the time. But it’s not as common as it was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.”
Reminded of the Internet video in which the interviewer challenges people who believe being gay is a choice by asking when did you decide to be straight? Luckey confirmed, “I think that, for the LGBT community, choosing to be discriminated against, choosing to be harassed and picked on, and choosing to have less rights than everyone else. I don’t think it’s a choice.”
Turning to the Pride Festival, Luckey said, “There are lots of wonderful things coming up. On Thursday, Sept. 26 there will be a Pre-Pride Meet and Greet at Reds in Sedona. Then on Friday it’s a Neon Insomnia Bar Crawl. We’re asking everyone to dress in their best neon for a pub crawl through five of the best bars and restaurants in Old Town Cottonwood. We’ll start at Burning Tree Cellars. Then we’re doing a Neon Insomnia Pre-Party at Main Stage in Cottonwood with our special guest, Pandora DeStrange who considers himself a gender outlaw. Pandora will be followed by a band from Sedona called VoodaBang.”
“On Saturday the 28th,” Luckey continued, “we start our festival at noon in the Activity Park in Old Town Cottonwood right behind the Old City Hall building where they have the Farmers’ Market. That will run from noon to eight o’clock with live entertainment hosted by Clayton McKee from QTalk America.com. We are encouraging people to go out in to Old Town for their dining experience because we have a lot of support from restaurants. That evening we’re doing an After Party at 1.5 Quince on Main Street in Cottonwood with the Men of Homorodeo. We’re expecting about 1,200 people this year.”
When asked what civil rights issues the community is facing now, Luckey mentioned that gay marriage is banned in Arizona. He then said, “Well, some of the positive changes are with the federal government and the IRS extending benefits to same sex marriages. So if you get married in New York and come back to Arizona, the federal government will now recognize it for IRS purposes. It’s a wonderful. Any insurance benefits…any medical benefits that are recognized for heterosexual couples are now extended to legally-married gay couples.”
After a discussion of the major events in the history of the movement, the conversation turned back to recent gains. Steve and Mike noted that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed by the Obama administration and that fourteen states now recognize gay marriage.
Asked about the opposition to gay marriage – whether it’s ideological, religious or animosity toward gays – Luckey responded, “I think it’s a mix of all of that. Things have continued to change and there will always be opposition to every advancement, whether it’s good or bad. And for marriage equality, I think we’re standing on the edge of something really good right now. I think more and more people are becoming accepting of the idea.”
When asked why civil unions don’t solve the problem, Mark replied, “Because it’s not an equal thing. Marriage is a state right for you. I don’t want anything special than what we’ve already been offered in our Constitution.”
He concluded by noting the economic effect the ban on gay marriage is having in Arizona. “It’s estimated that the State of Arizona is losing $200 million a year because of not allowing gay marriage, said Luckey. “I know a lot of people who would like to get married in Sedona.”
For more information and a complete list of events for the upcoming Pride Festival, visit the Sedona Pride website.