In October 2008, Angela Hughey was in San Diego standing at the altar with the woman she had been in love with for 15 years. It was a moment she had been looking for for a long time. To be treated equally and have the same rights as someone born straight.
The day after her wedding, before their honeymoon, Hughey purchased the estate for an organization she had in mind. It was an organization that would pursue equal protections for LGBTQ people and slowly but surely replace ignorance with empathy for anyone who wanted to sit down and have coffee with her.
It was then that the non-profit organization One Community was born.
Hughey said she decided early on to approach the issue not just from a social justice perspective, but also from a pro-business perspective. She said at the time that it was common for business leaders to distance themselves from perceived social justice issues, often arguing that social justice activism such as LGBTQ equality was not something. on which the business community could weigh.
It took time for Hughey to convince the others that the two issues were not separate from each other. Protecting LGBTQ people was the right thing to do culturally and commercially.
“Every issue is interconnected,” Hughey told The Arizona Republic. “We are all human beings, aren’t we? So the anti-LGBTQ policy may be intended to harm and discriminate against LGBTQ Arizonans or LGBTQ Americans, but it harms the entire region and the entire nation. And so we need to take the time, I think, to connect those dots and give people the opportunity again to step into a place of really exploitable allyship.
Janine Skinner, director of community engagement for One Community, told The Republic she first heard of the organization after one of her children started working for Hughey when he was student.
Skinner said One Community’s work impressed her, while Hughey’s tenacity and willingness to approach anyone – no matter where they were on the political spectrum – helped her join.
Skinner said the drive to cross the aisle has been monumental to making progress.
“You think of all the big national organizations and they’re 100% Democratic leaning,” Skinner said. “They just don’t really leave space for Republicans, the religious community and people in the middle to join hands – and that’s what we all are.”
A nonprofit created a pledge for companies to protect LGBTQ employees
In 2013, Hughey and his team created a “Unity Pledge” calling for non-discriminatory LGBTQ protections and practices in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations. A community announced the pledge alongside then-Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who signed the pledge himself.
Since its inception, more than 3,400 businesses and more than 21,000 individuals have signed the pledge, according to the One Community website.
“When you have a diverse and inclusive team, people bring their best and brightest ideas,” Hughey said. “They stick around longer, they’re healthier, and you really create a more sustainable ecosystem for the business or organization.”
Hughey said one of One Community’s biggest challenges was fighting the passage of Senate Bill 1062 in 2014, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service based on religion, which many viewed as an attack on LGBTQ people.
The bill quickly made its way through the Republican-controlled legislature and landed on the government of the day. Jan Brewer’s office in less than six weeks.
Hughey said the bill reminded him of SB 1070, which allowed law enforcement to arrest, detain and arrest someone if there was a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that they were without papers.
Hughey said SB 1070 left her at a crossroads — would she leave Arizona for a state whose government was more closely aligned with her own values, or would she stay and work to make the More friendly state for people from all walks of life?
She opted for the latter.
“We have a responsibility to be part of the process and educate people about the damage these things are going to do,” Hughey said. “Because if 1070 was meant to harm Hispanics and SB 1062 was meant to discriminate against LGBTQ people – when you hurt one Arizonan, you hurt all Arizonans.”
Hughey and his colleagues rushed to mount a campaign against SB 1062. Hughey contacted the owner of a FastSigns location and after working with him and several other friends and colleagues, had scribbled their campaign message on a post- it: “Open For Business To All People.”
Hundreds of signs were made and distributed to people and business owners across the state who had signed the pledge in an effort to influence Brewer’s decision not to sign the bill.
“It was beautiful, really, in so many ways,” Hughey said. “And it was an opportunity for ordinary Arizonans to participate in the process, wasn’t it? To voice their opinion on a bill that really could have caused so much harm.
On Feb. 26 — two days after SB 1062 landed on his desk — Brewer vetoed the bill.
In a letter to then-Senate Speaker Andy Biggs, Brewer began by saying that she valued freedom of religion from government intervention and passed legislation allowing companies affiliated with religion to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage and abortion drugs in their medical insurance plans.
However, Brewer went on to say that SB 1062 failed to address specific concerns within the business community and that some lawmakers who originally supported the bill have since reconsidered their votes.
Brewer then cited the response she heard from the Arizona business community as one of the reasons for the veto.
“The bill is broadly worded and could lead to unintended and negative consequences,” the letter said. “The legislation is intended to protect businesses, but the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law.”
SB 1062’s death was a watershed moment for LGBTQ rights and One Community. But for Hughey, there is always more work to do.
The bill would make the protection against discrimination a law
As it stands, LGBTQ protections remain a patchwork of municipal ordinances and pledges from businesses and individuals in Arizona. Hughey said she could drive through Arizona with his wife and any protections they had could disappear depending on what city they were in.
“When we leave Phoenix and enter a municipality that hasn’t put in place LGBTQ-inclusive policies, that means we don’t have the same job, housing, or public housing protections,” he said. Hughey. “Public housing is restaurants and hotels. It’s also a doctor’s office, it’s a hospital.
Over the years, Hughey acquired a knack for fostering conversations with people who opposed his views, confronting their concerns head-on while doing his best to avoid the condemnations they had too personally. Hughey said ignorance was one of the greatest obstacles to progress and that many people would change their perspective if ignorance was exposed to reality.
Hughey said her current focus is on House Bill 2802, titled “The Equality and Fairness for All Arizonans Act.” Hughey said the law would provide protections against discrimination regarding housing, employment and public accommodations for LGBTQ people across the state.
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, and Rep. Amish Shah, a Democrat. However, it does not appear that lawmakers assigned the bill to committees on Wednesday.
No matter what the future holds, Hughey believes that cultivating and embracing open dialogue with anyone is about leading the way forward.
“We all come into the conversation based on our own personal journeys and lived experiences,” Hughey said. “And if we can just meet people where they are and start with the things that we agree on with each other, then I think the opportunity is really limitless.”
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