by Aaron Wylam, The Arizona Republic
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)—As a conservative state, Arizona is not often thought of as gay-friendly. To combat that image, Tempe has built strong ties with the community in recent years.
The Tempe Tourism Office touts the city’s progressive attitude and hosts a website, launched in 2007, that is geared toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visitors. The site offers a guide to accommodations such as the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center, a TAG-approved hotel at Priest Drive and Broadway Road.
TAG approval is given to businesses that offer equal treatment to married heterosexual couples and domestic partners in company policies, provide LGBT diversity training for employees and enforce nondiscrimination polices that include sexual orientation.
To attract LGBT visitors, Tempe also advertises in publications geared toward the gay community such as Pride Guides, according to Toni Smith, communications director for the office.
Pride Guides, which has publications in several states including California and New Mexico, is corporately based in Arizona and provides a resource for people seeking gay-friendly businesses. This year, the city will advertise in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon.
Considered a niche market by the tourism office, LGBT advertising is included in the city’s marketing expenses, estimated at more than $1 million across all markets for fiscal year 2011-2012.
The Tempe fire and police departments also practice LGBT nondiscrimination policies.
“The Tempe Police Department takes pride in connecting with and representing our diverse community,” said Department Spokeswoman Molly Enright. “One of the four fundamental pillars of our strategic plan is creating a supportive environment for employees, including our current LGBT employees.”
The department is part of the city Human Relations Commission, and several police employees are part of their Gay & Straight Alliance, which meets several times annually and invites family and friends to events such as last weekend’s Town Lake cleanup, Enright said.
Arizona State University also works to include the LGBT community. In 2003, ASU became the first university in the country to host a gay fraternity and lesbian sorority, Sigma Phi Beta and Gamma Rho Lambda, respectively. Nine years after its founding, the fraternity has chapters in Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, while the sorority boasts branches in California, Kansas and Texas.
ASU also hosts LGBT QA Services, which offers professional-development training with an introduction to LGBT communities as well as a SafeZONE workshop.
SafeZONE Allies display a placard showing their awareness of LGBT individuals and willingness to offer help to those seeking support and information, according to the program’s website.
SafeZONE is similar to an initiative launched Nov. 14 in Phoenix. One Voice Community Center, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 to unify and empower the Phoenix LGBT community, is partnered with the city to create and distribute decals to merchants in the Melrose District. Melrose District is defined as Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback roads.
City Councilman Tom Simplot, an openly gay member whose district includes Melrose, told The Republic he got the idea after seeing rainbow stickers on business’ windows in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood.
Spurred by the success of the initiative, Alec Thomson, a policy adviser to Simplot, said the councilman’s office would continue to promote it in central Phoenix and offer participation to any interested businesses.
“Thus far the community and city leaders have been extremely supportive of our effort to bring together the LGBT community and local business in Phoenix,” Thomson said.