Gov. Janet Napolitano disappointed a gay and lesbian activists group Saturday night when she didn’t criticize a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriages at the group’s largest annual statewide fundraiser in Phoenix.
Opposition to the proposed initiative was a constant theme of Saturday’s awards banquet for the Arizona Human Rights Fund and its sister organizations. But Napolitano carefully avoided any mention of the potential constitutional amendment when she spoke at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.
Instead, Napolitano announced the creation of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Human Rights Advocacy. She provided the award to Bill Hardin, a Phoenix lawyer and a founder of the Arizona Human Rights Fund.
Despite Napolitano’s public opposition to same-sex marriage, the governor received a warm welcome Saturday, with two standing ovations from the audience of 930 people. During her first year in office, Napolitano attended the banquet to announce an executive order banning employment discrimination against gays and lesbians at state agencies under her control.
Activists had hoped Napolitano would use this year’s appearance to declare opposition to the Protect Marriage Amendment, because it also would bar state and local governments from offering any recognition or employee benefits to gay and unmarried straight couples.
"She played it safe," said Mario Della Casa, a Queen Creek artist. "As far the state goes, it is far too conservative. (But) if it’s not talked about, it can’t be debated."
Napolitano spoke for less than five minutes and made only a subtle reference to the efforts to promote equality.
"We must move Arizona forward, and we must do it together, everybody," Napolitano said.