The number of LGBTQ voters is projected to increase dramatically. What does that mean for Arizona?
The number of LGBTQ voters in Arizona is projected to dramatically increase in the coming years. That’s according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
This shift is not just happening in Arizona, but nationally, as well. And it could reshape the electoral landscape.
Kanix Gallo won’t be voting in the upcoming midterm elections.
"I am 14 years old. I'm a student at Chandler High School," he said. "I'm part of the GLSEN Shine Team as well as Support Equality Arizona Schools, which is a student led nonprofit organization."
But when he turns 18, he said: "Definitely the first thing I'm ever going to do is register to vote."
For now, Gallo, who is trans, is talking to the people he knows to encourage them to support candidates who won’t further erode LGBTQ rights.
"I feel like almost everything we are fighting for, just has to do with being human," Gallo said.
A coming wave?
Gallo is part of a wave — a wave of LGBTQ people who could over the next 20 years transform Arizona and even national politics.
"And from this report, it seems that we are queering elections," said Madelaine Adelman, a professor of Justice Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. "We're seeing more and more LGBTQ people not only being out but also registering to vote, and actually getting out to vote."
And the report she’s talking about by HRC, a pro-LGBTQ advocacy group, and Bowling Green State University is projecting that by 2040, 1-in-5 voters nationwide will identify as LGBTQ.
Arizona is expected to see a similar shift, according to the report — by then, just over 19% of the state’s voting eligible population could identify as LGBTQ.
"I feel like almost everything we are fighting for just has to do with being human."
— Kanix Gallo, 14
Adelman says a lot of it has to do with Generation Z, those people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
"So Gen-Zers are more out, more affirmative, more supportive, more actively supportive of LGBTQ people, in general, when you compare them to the millennials, who are substantially more supportive than Gen X," she said. "They were born into an Obama administration that was moving forward on LGBTQ rights."
They’re also more aware of their rights, she said.
"And they are painfully aware of the kinds of moves going on politically to remove, to quash, to minimize their and their friends and their family members’ rights," Adelman said.
Moves like the two laws that passed in Arizona this year banning gender-affirming surgery and prohibiting transgender females from participating in girls sports.
At a national level, there was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion the day Roe v. Wade was overturned in which he wrote same-sex marriage should be reconsidered.
'Near and dear to my life'
Peter Taylor, 65, came out in the late 1970s.
"From my perspective, the social issues outweigh the financial issues because they're near and dear to my life," he said.
Like Gallo, he’s increasingly worried about what could happen if say same-sex marriage was overturned or same-sex intimacy became illegal.
Which means voting for more progressive candidates.
But in a place like Arizona, where Republicans have mostly dominated state politics, how will the GOP prepare for the potential rise of this voting bloc?
Not a monolith
"You know, I think the report presupposes that all of these folks are single-issue voters, and that's just simply not the case, No. 1. No. 2, I think it presupposes that they're automatically going to be Democrat votes rather than Republican votes," said Marcus Dell’Artino is a partner at FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs.
And, he says, a lot can change in 10 or 20 years — we don’t know what the political battlefield will look like then and this report is merely a projection.
Dell’Artino also points to Latino voters for some context. He says for years we’ve heard about how Latino voters are one of the fastest growing voting blocs in the country.
"What I think is interesting in that, the supposition was that, of course, all of these voters would be Democrat voters, and move the needle to the left," he said. "And if you look at what's going on, exactly today, the Democrat Party is actually bleeding male Hispanic voters or Latino voters to the Republican Party."
Turns out, Latinos are not a monolith. Neither is the LGBTQ community.
"We come from all walks of life, and some of us are religious, and some of us have disabilities. Some of us are employed or underemployed or unemployed," said Adelman.
A common thread
What binds Gallo and Taylor — a Gen-Zer and a Baby Boomer — is their desire to be seen as human beings with the same rights and privileges as cisgender, heterosexual Americans. It also means understanding the differences that exist within the LGBTQ community. It’s something that struck Taylor as he listened to Gallo talk.
"I'm fully behind you, and I think the larger LGB-community could probably do more, you know, that we are pushing on your issue; on our issue," Taylor said. "I applaud you."
As for the report, time will tell if this is a harbinger for the future of the state of Arizona.