George Miller

 Task Force on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues is focusing on three areas: legal, education and social services. The Legal Committee is working with the City Attorney’s Office to strengthen and update Tucson’s local ordinance that prohibits discrimination. The Education Committee will be meeting with local school superintendents and administrators to discuss making the city’s school campuses safer for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. The Social Services Committee is designing a survey for social service agencies that will gauge, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the level of safety, confidentiality and openness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered clients.

2. When was the program created and why?

As a result of the brutal slaying of college student Matthew Shephard, the Tucson community held a candlelight vigil on the University of Arizona campus. Tucson Mayor George Miller was in attendance and stated that Tucson needed to work on improving the climate for gays and lesbians. In 1976 Tucson was among the first cities in America to enact a local law prohibiting discrimination against gay and lesbians. Mayor Miller feels that it is not enough to say that Tucson doesn’t tolerate discrimination. Creating or strengthening community networks, educating other organizations on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, and promoting a climate where sexual orientation is protected by the law can help make communities better.

3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?

Because this task force was initiated in November 1998, measurement at this time will be difficult. However, changes in the local ordinances and their enforcement could be measured by reporting from law enforcement and the equal opportunity office and by the outcome of legal action. The school districts and social service agencies will need to design measures based upon their specific programs.

4. How is the program financed?

The legal, education and social service communities will be mostly focusing on educating the public about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. Training costs could be absorbed, or would have minimal costs. The city of Tucson is committed to assisting the committees with costs that might be incurred.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

When Mayor Miller made the announcement that he would be forming a task force, the response from the community was overwhelming. Representatives from Wingspan, Wingspan Domestic Violence Project, Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, Lesbian/Gay Public Awareness Project, Lambda Lawyers Group, St. Philip’s Gay and Lesbian Spirituality Group, Water of Life Metropolitan Community Church, University of Arizona, Tucson Police Department, Pima County Health Department, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Southern Arizona Aids Foundation, Anti-Hate Crimes Task Force, Pride Law Center and many others attended the first meeting called by the mayor. After newspaper articles and editorials regarding the task force appeared in local newspapers, the mayor’s office received calls from additional organizations that were interested in being on the task force.

6. What are the major lessons learned that would be helpful for others trying to implement a similar program?

Because the task force will be making recommendations regarding policy changes for local governments, school districts and social service organizations, it is important to constantly educate those who will be the ultimate decision-makers regarding those policies.

7. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?

The city of Tucson currently has the Human Relations Commission, the Tucson Commission on Urban Metropolitan Native American Affairs, and the Anti Hate Crimes Task Force to make recommendations and remain proactive in these issues that affect our community. The Mayor’s Task Force on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues is an additional way to assist the citizens of Tucson. All mayors should encourage grass-roots efforts to ensure that all of their constituents feel that they have the backing and understanding from their elected leaders.

For more information, please contact:

Teresa Welborn
Office of the Mayor
City of Tucson
P.O. Box 27210
Tucson, AZ 85726-7210
Telephone: (520) 791-4201
Fax: (520) 791-5348

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